Project Transit is a program focused primarily to 11th and 12th graders to expose them to career tracks that they can learn about in the transportation industry. It is focused on connecting both youth in disadvantaged urban communities and adults who have values to employment with opportunities in transportation; it exposes young people to what the transportation industry is going to look like in the 21st century. This program builds young people’s skills, supports their academic skills and gives them experiences they wouldn’t get in school.
“Over the last four years we’ve been able to expose about 180 students in a career exploration and develop an internship experience working with employers and the school district of Philadelphia,” ACF CEO Sandra Dungee Glenn says.
“Our students are split up in five different transit-related areas,” explains Director of Project Transit: Youth Programming Constance Davis. One is looking at government; students intern with some of the council people in Philadelphia and look at transportation from a legislative vantage point, more specifically, what legislators need to do to promote more mass transportation.
Students also work in the school district, in the public transit division. Each week the students see how school districts handle transportation. There are students at the Philadelphia City Streets Department and they look at issues that deal with transportation and there are also students in the insurance sector, looking at what opportunities insurance agencies offer individuals, what they offer large corporations and how they will be affected as mass transportation grows.
Twenty sessions are broken down into three different modules. Module one is about job readiness, which focuses on building the soft skills – networking, proper corporate attire and corporate culture – done by Dr. Valerie Adams. She and her assistant, Dr. Brian Coleman, took the time out to separate the students, doing a lot of group activities and one-on-one sessions.
Module two has three components; two trainers from SEPTA for mechanical training, a customer service trainer from the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp., and a college prep trainer from the school district. Davis says, “Each of these trainers were very well-versed in their background and were able to give the students truthful information to help them to the next level.”
Module three, taught by Davis and ACF’s Customer Service Trainer Teresa Dooley, is job counseling, the final preparation for internships.
“We became involved with SEPTA through the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials. We have a field trip for our interns to SEPTA’s main offices then I have a career day exploration seminar with them and also a touring of their control department and how everything at SEPTA really works,” Davis says.
She explains that in the midst of the three modules, there is a male-enrichment seminar because of the females outnumbering the males in these settings. “We had Dr. Rufus Litch come in and work with our males, kind of bringing them out of their shells,” she says. “What his response to me was, in working with our 12 or so boys, is that there’s a lot of talent in the room and it just needed to be tapped in to.
“Those young gentlemen who stayed with us completely through our process and are interning now, are truly gentlemen who I would say fall into the typical pathways of a young, African-American male in the inner city and they are now looking at other options … really dedicating themselves to being at work on time and getting the most out of their internship experience.”
Getting the teenage psyche to understand that you have to put in the hard work now to recoup the benefits later is one of the biggest challenges Davis says. “And it’s definitely harder in the winter when it’s cold, snowy and no child wants to be up at 7 o’clock on Saturday morning going to a program to listen to somebody talk when you spend five days in school doing that.”
The second hurdle was trying to figure out what exactly is going to enlighten them and encourage them and see that spark, she says. Once they were able to identify what each niche was for each student, things were able to move a little smoother.