Nonprofit steers students to JP apprenticeships

When Helen Russell asks eighth-graders what they want to do for a living as adults, they usually respond about working at a video game or sneaker store.

Russell, who heads the Jamaica Plain-based nonprofit Apprentice Learning, runs a program that she said prepares students for a vocation with more of a career arc. It matches them with local businesses for apprenticeship-type jobs.

“The idea is to prepare kids for the world beyond eighth grade. What that means is teaching them skills they can use their whole life,” said Russell.

The nonprofit, which started in 2012 and has a partnership with the Boston Public Schools, shares space with the Mission Hill K-8 School at 20 Child St. Apprentice Learning currently has 23 students in its program—13 students from the Mission Hill school and 10 students from the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) School at 25 Walk Hill St. in JP.

The students attend six classes to prepare them for the apprenticeship. During the classes, they build a resume and list what interests them and what skills they possess, such as organizing and being punctual. Apprentice Learning then pairs the students with businesses in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale area it thinks would be a good fit. The students visit the businesses for two hours once a week for six weeks.

Some JP businesses participating in the program include Polka Dog Bakery, Fresh Hair salon, JP Knit & Stitch craft store and Ferris Wheels Bike Shop.

At Ferris Wheels at 66 South St., student Eric Tse learned how to put together a bike and fix its brakes. Shop owner Jeffrey Ferris said he hopes Tse learned about hard work and responsibility.

Russell said it’s too early to tell whether the program can be instituted district-wide. But, she said, the hope is to “grow and get bigger every year.”

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Ferris Wheels employee Mark Lembo teaches apprentice Eric Tse about a bike. (Courtesy Photo)

Ferris Wheels employee Mark Lembo teaches apprentice Eric Tse about a bike. (Courtesy Photo)

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