New Bedford Whaling Museum awarded $120K grant for teen apprentice program

The Museum’s 2010-2011 Youth Apprentices (seated, left to right): Rico Hernandez, John Antunes, Daniel Golda (back, left to right): Mark Ste. Rose, Amber Rosa, Tori Arsenault, Megan Perez, Carlos Velazquez, Peightyn Riley, Ryan Wotton, Joshua Vargas, and Melanie DeJesus.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has been awarded $120,000 for its Youth Apprenticeship Program, which is designed to provide mentoring, job training and academic enrichment to local youth. The grant was announced by the trustees of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in the category of Expanding Access & Creating Opportunity. The program emphasizes ‘learning and earning’ paired with the vital goal of graduating from high school as a critical step toward a college degree.

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund also provided support in 2010 for the Museum’s pilot program for high school apprentices. The new grant allows the Museum to move from a pilot program to full implementation in which teenagers develop job and life skills that improve academic attainment and ensure readiness for the workplace.

Apprentices receive intensive training and mentoring during out-of-school time for a full academic year, with the invitation to return to the program in subsequent years for more independent mentoring, and a leadership role in program delivery. Teens follow a structured skills-development program, while gaining professional work experience, contributing to Museum projects, and earning a competitive wage. A primary objective is ensuring that all apprentices successfully complete the current school year and continue on to the next level of education. Participating high school seniors all commit to applying to college.

James Russell, museum president expressed tremendous appreciation for the award. “We are most grateful to the Jessie Ball duPont Fund – an out-of-state national foundation – for recognizing the merit of this program and for their imprimatur. The apprentice program is highly competitive and we have high expectations for our apprentices. The economy is particularly difficult for youth seeking jobs. This important grant makes it possible that we can pay these students and demonstrates that we value students’ time,” he said.

Apprentices are recruited through a competitive need-based application process.

Directed by the Museum’s education department, teen apprentices participate in team and independent projects and work closely with Museum staff mentors. They work in all areas of museum activities and operations, including conservation, curatorial, development, docent duties, educational programs, exhibitions, facilities projects, front desk operations, library research, museum technology, public events, and whales and the environment.

The response from teens in the program has been enthusiastic and insightful. “This apprenticeship program allows a younger generation to take on a much larger role… we can show the community that teens can be responsible. Our presence shows other youth that museums are fun and interesting,” said Amber Rosa, apprentice and student at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

A student at New Bedford High School, apprentice Joshua Vargas said, “Thanks to the Whaling Museum I am more secure about myself and now I take chances at new things. This is great because I didn’t have that confidence before. Whenever people ask me what I do, I proudly say I work in the Whaling Museum.”

Additional support for the 2010 Youth Apprentice Program include the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, the United Way of Greater New Bedford, City of New Bedford Community Development Block Grant program, Anthony Pappas Charitable Foundation, Inc., and the Howard Bayne Fund, a donor-advised foundation.

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