My internship with the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) started last week. While the headquarters of JVS is located in downtown Boston, JVS has many smaller offsite locations. One of these locations is located in East Boston close to the Maverick T-Station; this is where my internship for the summer is located. JVS’ many locations is demonstrative of an integral part of their core principles: being easily accessible to the entire Boston community. The program I am working with this summer is called English for Advancement, one of their many departments and programs. The English for Advancement program pairs English classes and career counseling services to help immigrants and refugees in the greater Boston area find and secure stable jobs.
The East Boston location of the English for Advancement (EfA) program where I am working meets in an office space that is shared with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Though the two organizations are separate entities, they work together in many ways to serve the East Boston community. The Health Center informs many people in the area about EfA and many of our clients use services provided by both organizations. It is a successful partnership and I am excited to learn more about both of these organizations as the summer continues. Beyond the East Boston site, EfA serves the Boston community from six different locations: Lynn, Lawrence, Roxbury, East Boston, Dorchester, and Downtown Boston. From these six sites, EfA has found jobs for over 2,000 clients in the past year alone. JVS’ mission plans for JVS to be, “Empowering individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces.” Their EfA program embodies this mission in all sense and even in my first few days with them I have seen how they put this into action.
During my first day at JVS, I was taught about the different policies, processes, and systems in place at JVS- it was a classic intern introduction- being taught how to use the different databases, understand the codes and filing systems, and find every place in the building that I needed to know about. By the second day however, things were in full swing. In the morning (as I will each morning), I worked as a teacher’s assistant in the EfA English class. The English classes are challenging for one teacher to handle because each student/client (used interchangeably) comes in with a very different level of English ability. There are some clients who arrive to the EfA program knowing nearly zero English, while other students are much more comfortable speaking. While JVS attempts to level the classes, JVS’ priority is to bring in as many students as possible, and this means adapting to the schedule of everyone who is a part of the EfA program. This results in having classes with very mixed levels of English.
Thus far, I have spent the majority of the time during the morning assisting the students with lower levels of English to ensure that they are understanding what is being taught. Because around half to three quarters of the students that the East Boston location serves are native Spanish speakers, my Spanish fluency has been an extremely useful. My personal learning goal for the summer was to improve my Spanish speaking skills and this has already begun to occur. In the afternoons I work independently focusing on projects and tasks delegated to me by supervisors Maria (the head of career coaching) and Laura (the head of the English classes). This has enabled me to work on one of my other learning goals: learning how non-profit organizations successfully operate. My work includes meeting with clients to work on their resumes, apply for jobs, or practice for interviews; calling new clients and providing them with information about our program; interviewing potential clients to see if they are a good fit for our program; searching for jobs for our clients, and translating material from English into Spanish or French.
Working at JVS thus far has been a pleasure. I already feel as though I have developed strong relationships with many of the clients. They are helping me learn so much and are already enabling me to accomplish my third learning goal- improving my navigation of multicultural learning environments. Getting to meet with the clients and watching them achieve all of their goals, find good jobs, and become more confident in their English feels so special. I have left work each day feeling so joyful after interacting with everyone who is part of the JVS community. Almost every client I have worked with thus far has been so motivated and optimistic. I feel so grateful that this is where I will be spending my summer. More to come soon, EC