LISTEN: A high schooler working at Bloomberg — plus ‘shotgunning’ college applications

Two high school students sit next to each other on red chairs posing for a portrait.
Student producer Christian Rojas Linares (left) prepares to interview high school junior Heidy Torres about her apprenticeship at Bloomberg. The apprenticeship program is part of a major push by city officials to expose students to career options well before graduation. (Kyle Finck / The Bell)

As many seniors are making decisions about their post-graduation plans, this episode of P.S. Weekly profiles two students giving us an inside look at their approaches to preparing for life after high school.

For years, the Education Department has prioritized putting all students on a path to college. And while Chancellor David Banks says preparing students for higher education remains an important goal — as many jobs require a degree — he is placing greater emphasis on exposing students to the workplace well before graduation.

In the first segment, student producer Christian Rojas Linares explores a new apprenticeship program through the eyes of Heidy Torres, a high school junior who works 16 hours a week for Bloomberg, the finance giant and media company. City officials are hoping to offer about 3,000 slots over three years through the Career Readiness and Modern Youth Apprenticeship program, an ambitious effort to connect students to intensive work experiences that can stretch beyond high school.

For Heidy, the program is helping her think through what kind of career she might want. “Besides the fact that you’re earning money, you also know that, ‘Oh, I want to do this or I don’t want to do this,’” she says. “It gives you a new perspective.”

The second segment focuses on a student who has devoted enormous energy to getting into a top college — submitting 23 applications requiring 50 supplemental essays. Student producer Marcellino Melika spoke with Alex Calafiura, a senior at Manhattan’s East Side Community High School, about how he approached that daunting process and why he applied to so many schools.

A high school student poses for a portrait on a red chair.
Alex Calafiura, a senior at Manhattan’s East Side Community High School, applied to 23 colleges. (Sabrina DuQuesnay / The Bell)

“You don’t really have any insight into what admissions committees [at] these schools are looking for,” Alex explains. “So you kind of just shoot your shot at as many schools as possible.” (Alex previously wrote an essay about his experience for Chalkbeat.)

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Be sure to drop a review in your app or shoot an email to PSWeekly@chalkbeat.org. Tell us what you learned in this episode or what you’re still wondering. We just might read your comment on a future episode.

P.S. Weekly is a collaboration between Chalkbeat and The Bell. Listen for new episodes Wednesdays this spring.


Read the full episode transcript below

Marcellino: Welcome to P.S. Weekly… the sound of the New York City school system. PS Weekly is a collaboration between Chalkbeat New York and The Bell. I’m your host this week, Marcellino Melika. I’m a junior at Francis Lewis High School in Queens. On today’s episode: the college admissions frenzy, plus: a new program that’s putting high schoolers to work, literally. But first!... A Chalkbeat news bulletin…

Mike: I’m Mike Elsen-Rooney, a reporter from Chalkbeat. Here’s a recap of the week’s biggest education stories:

On May 8, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks will testify at a U.S. House hearing on antisemitism. The committee overseeing the hearing is the same one that conducted the high-profile hearings last year with the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT.

Some school communities are pushing back on a mandated reading curriculum for elementary schools set to expand citywide next school year. They’re worried the changes threaten the things that make their schools unique, like teacher-created lessons. Meanwhile, the city is gearing up to overhaul curriculums for other grades and subjects.

And, New York City teens have launched a ‘Youth Civic Hub.” The new online portal aims to increase youth civic engagement and electoral participation. The platform is led by the nonprofit YVote and includes voter registration tools, internship opportunities, and more. You can find it at youthcivichub.org.

To stay up to date on local education news throughout the week, go to chalkbeat.org/newsletters and sign up for the New York Daily Roundup.

Marcellino: Thanks Chalkbeat!

Marcellino: This spring, seniors have been anxiously awaiting letters in their mail–or email. Letters that will shape the next 4 years of their lives, and beyond.

Reaction 1: I look like trash but I got into NYU

Reaction 2: Oh! I got into Yale!

Marcellino: This annual spring ritual is characterized by stress. And this year is even more stressful than usual…

ARCHIVAL TAPE:

This is the time of the year where many high school seniors choose their

college, but millions are still in limbo to hear how much financial aid they can

Expect…

SAT

Yale University tonight is the latest school reversing course, now requiring

standardized test courses for college admissions after 100s of schools shifted

to test-optional in recent years…

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

In the summer of 2023, the supreme court struck down affirmative action

in college admissions…

APPLICANTS

The race is on… the mad dash of applicants across America hoping to get into

the college of their choice… you’re going against a lot of competitive

Candidates…

Marcellino: The changes and challenges in college admissions have led to an especially stressful spring for many high school seniors. But we are also seeing new ways that the school system is trying to connect students to careers — sometimes instead of college.

CLIP: CHANCELLOR DAVID BANKS TAPE ON “CAREER PATHWAYS”

We’re going to create, career pathways. Where every young person that goes to our schools is going to be guaranteed that they’re going to have the skills, to go to college, to get a good job, they’re gonna understand what it means to take their place, in this American society.

Marcellino (Host): Chancellor David Banks has been steering the school system to focus more and more on introducing students to the workforce–well before graduation.

So with all of these changes in college admissions and a school system that’s talking more about careers than college, we wanted to know: How ARE high schoolers dealing with the age-old question: What’s Next?

Today, you’ll hear from two seniors: one who is putting the EARN in LEARN through a new career-focused program, and another who took the college application game to a new level.

With our first story, here’s P.S. Weekly producer Christian Rojas Linares.

HEIDY AUDIO DIARY: Good morning. It is currently 7:17 a.m.. I am picking out my outfit of the day and decided to go with my favorite grey flared pants and an oversized shirt.

Christian: This is Heidy Torres, a high school junior at the Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance.

HEIDY: I would get to school, go through daily school, routine my classes, and I would leave at 12:10 on the dot and then I would take the J train. And from there I would get to Bloomberg exactly around 1:00.

Christian: Bloomberg — the global financial and media giant, is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.

HEIDY AUDIO DIARY: Hello! It is currently 1:24 I am with my fellow apprenticee Keyla. Hi, guys. We are going to start work at exactly 1:30, which we will be taking on tickets and working with their issues.

Christian: Four afternoons a week, Heidy switches outfits — from student to employee — and works on Bloomberg’s internal Help Desk. Here’s how she explains her job:

HEIDY: I am in charge of basically, troubleshooting issues that employees have virtually. I don’t show up to their desk, I don’t troubleshoot myself. But virtually, you would help with, like installs for that employee or you would help them with like, oh, my PC isn’t working and you would like transfer that ticket to somebody who would actually go over there and help them with that issue.

Christian: I ask her THE important question…

Christian: How much does she get paid?

HEIDY: Currently I get paid 17 an hour

Christian: So you’re probably wondering,... how is a high school student working at Bloomberg? The short answer is: through an apprenticeship program her school offers.

HEIDY: At first I was skeptical. I wasn’t really into it. It was like taking a leap of faith, basically, and getting to be comfortable and knowing that you’re going to have to do some things that are out of your comfort zone, but then at the end it’s going to be good for you.

Christian: Heidy is one of hundreds of students citywide participating in the Career Readiness and Modern Youth Apprenticeship. It’s run by a nonprofit organization called CareerWise New York that partners with dozens of New York City public schools.

NOEL: CareerWise was founded in 2019 based off of an organization called CareerWise Colorado.

Christian: This is Noel Parish, Vice President of K-12 Partnerships at CareerWise.

NOEL: We wanted to get this started in New York because I personally had students who I know could be successful and wanted to be successful, but who also just wanted a job right out of high school. Sometimes they wanted to do some college, sometimes they just wanted to work a little bit and then go back to college. and there really weren’t many options. So we started career wise with the goal of creating an options multiplier for young people where they could take multiple pathways to a successful career.

Cristian: What are the main misconceptions that people may have about apprenticeships?

NOEL: I think a big one is often the apprenticeship is confused with an internship. So the apprenticeship has required instruction that you have to do. It has on-the-job training that has to be delivered by a mentor. It has a certification that you have to earn at the end of the apprenticeship, and then students can often get college credit for it. They’re also paid opportunities. You’re part of the company. You’re a real employee. And so you’re able to say, you know, I have worked at Amazon for three years by age 19. So I think that’s one of the misconceptions.

Christian: And there’s another big one:

It’s an alternative to college. Sometimes the apprenticeship can be an alternative to college. It can also be part of your journey in college. And sometimes the two are combined. Like in health care, you have to go to college you have to go to college to become a nurse. And so that’s part of the pathway. Other occupations, like a project coordinator, that doesn’t require a college degree. And so you can do that with just apprentice training. And there’s also certifications you can get, especially in the technology field, that allow you to do certain jobs without a degree. And so it creates so many options.

Christian: CareerWise is a key partner in the NYC school system’s shift from the previous administration’s “College for All” initiative to a focus on what they call Career Pathways — kind of like routes to professions that students can explore.

NOEL: Our main ones are in technology, business, finance, and then we launched health care last year. And so within each of those pathways are different occupations, which are very specific jobs, things like a junior coder, junior graphic designer. We have a pre-nursing program, a radiology program, project coordinator, marketing, human resources. I think we have about 28 different occupations that students can choose from.

Christian: How many students are participating in the apprenticeship program?

NOEL: We work with about 70 high schools. 58 of them are part of the Career Readiness and Modern Youth Apprenticeship Initiative that the DOE is currently running. There’s curriculum for ninth and 10th graders. So we have, you know, thousands of students taking that. But then in terms of apprenticeships, we’ve had over 650 students participate in a modern youth apprenticeship over the last five years.

Christian: CareerWise has high hopes to expand its apprenticeship program, and offer it to other schools on a waitlist. That will partially rely on having enough employer partners.

Christian: The NYC Department of Education has said they want to provide 3,000 apprenticeships over three years . It’s an ambitious goal, though the program would still reach less than 1% of the city’s public high school students.

Christian: I ask Noel how CareerWise evaluates success.

NOEL: The outcome that I’m most proud of is that it is truly an options multiplier. So we have a large percentage of young people who do decide to go on to college right after the program. We think that’s great. We’ve had a student who got accepted to, I think it was Yale, and he deferred his start of Yale for a year because he wanted to finish his apprenticeship at Amazon. We’ve had students who have gotten a job right out at 19, no college debt as a coder making like $109,000 a year. We have students that get hired as project cooordinators, that is the the successful outcome of the program.

Christian: So what is Heidy planning on doing after high school? Is she planning on going to college?

HEIDY: Um, yes, I do plan, but it’s going to be out of state. I don’t want to stay in here. I want to really explore and I want to see what there is.

Christian: what do you plan on studying?

HEIDY: I plan on studying forensic science. I love anything mysteries any true crime, but I would say I would go back to Bloomberg. If being a forensic scientist doesn’t work out cause they have so many other communities that I don’t know of yet, and I would love to be more on the production side of it, too.

Christian: Would you recommend the Modern Youth apprenticeship to someone who is undecided about their future?

HEIDY: I would say go for it, but you have to really stay committed to it like It’s going to take a leap of faith and it’s going to feel weird cause it’s new, but then you’re going to feel glad you did it because, besides the fact that you’re earning money, you also know that, oh, I want to do this or I don’t want to do this. It gives you a new perspective.

HEIDY AUDIO DIARY: Hello. It is currently 3:30 and I am about to enter my end-of-the-day meeting with my team. This is where we just talk about any tickets that we need help with So after that, I’m just going to finish up some of the tickets and like saving them for next week, and then that’s the end of the day.

Christian: The theme I heard from both Heidy and Noel?... Options. The program is designed to give students MORE options. A toolbox full of jobs to try out and see if you like… And the goal is that if you DO decide to go to college, you’ll have a better sense of why.

Cooking it up for P.S. Weekly, I’m Christian Rojas Linares.

Marcellino: Thanks Christian. Next up… producer Tanvir Kaur and I worked together on a story about a high school senior who knows his way around the college application process… After this quick break.

--

Alex: Uh, got to think about this. I always forget what I had for breakfast. Oh, This morning I had a croissant from my deli, and I went straight to school.

Tanvir: A few weeks ago, our host Marcellino spoke with Alex Calafiuria, a senior at Eastside Community High School in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Tanvir: We wanted to talk to Alex…because he wrote an article for Chalkbeat…about how he applied to TWENTY THREE colleges.

MARCELLINO: So, why did you apply to so many schools?

ALEX: I did it because I’m crazy. But actually, I did it because I really wanted to get the best shot possible at all of these amazing schools. And I’m really passionate about learning. And I believe there’s so many different colleges across the country, and I could see myself fitting in at so many of them.

Tanvir: But still… twenty-three?!

Alex: Okay, so there is this thing going around the internet for a while now. It’s called the “shotgunning” method.

Youtube Clip

And then there’s another strategy, one what I’d like to call the “shotgun

strategy” this is the one where you apply to many schools like fifteen or twenty

schools sometimes even more than …

ALEX: you don’t really have any insight into what admissions committees are these schools are looking for. So you kind of just shoot your shot at as many schools as possible.You should hope that one specific school has a need for someone with your application.

Tanvir: Okay, So… I have to admit. I also applied to a lot of schools. 26 of them…

Tanvir: I didn’t know what “shot-gunning” was–but that’s what many seniors are doing. As a first-generation student applying to college, I was anxious. I felt like by getting into a good university, my parents’ sacrifices would be worth it.

Tanvir: But… Applying to a lot of schools is not easy. How did Alex keep track of everything?

ALEX: Stay organized, because if you’re disorganized, everything’s going to fall apart really quickly. For me, I found that staying organized meant making spreadsheets, having documents of my essays, and just having a to-do list and making sure I was on track.

Tanvir: Alex had support throughout the application process from his school’s counselors. His school offered SAT prep, financial aid seminars, and helped seniors with other tasks. But ultimately, writing the 50 – yes FIFTY – essays came down to him…. alone…. tapping away at his laptop at the Seward Park Public Library… Spending HUNDREDS of hours in total.

ALEX: And knocking out one essay after the other after the other, and then somewhere halfway through you kind of just had this realization that what if this is all for nothing? Like, what if I’m sitting here writing these essays and nothing comes out of it? So those are tough times and I think they kind of make you lose motivation a little bit.

Tanvir: This is a reality for many seniors. While I was applying, I also wondered, what if it was all for nothing? What if I had spent more time with my family and friends–instead of spending days and nights working on college applications? But, you can’t fall into the rabbit hole of what if’s.

Tanvir: A week or so after Marcellino spoke with Alex, he sent me a voice memo.

ALEX: And this was my reaction, March 28th at 7 PM as I heard back from

Yale

VOICE MEMO ALEX:

[Multiple voices screaming yelling]…I made it. I made it!... YEAH! YEAH! Let’s go! My boy’s in Yale!… Alright!

Tanvir: Congratulations, Alex! Your hard work definitely paid off.

Tanvir: As for me, I am anxiously waiting for my FAFSA application to be processed. The process has been difficult but it’s important to remind yourself that your self-worth is not determined by acceptances or rejections. Admissions officers are looking at papers, not people. They don’t know your personality, that you are kind. Or, that you always brighten a room with your smile. College is not the only journey. It does not define who you are. There are many ways to achieve your definition of success.

Tanvir: If you don’t believe me–here’s Emmy-award-winning audio producer – Stephanie Foo – in her recent Instagram reel…

Stephanie Foo CLIP: I really wanted to go to Stanford. That was the plan. And I failed all of my classes and I graduated with a 2.9 GPA. So suffice it to say, I did not go to Stanford. Now I have one of these.

Tanvir: You can’t see, but Stephanie picks up her Emmy Award.

Stephanie Foo CLIP: And I also have this–which is a NYT’s best-selling book. And I have worked at places like This American Life, and I’ve written for like the NYTimes. And nobody ever really cared where I went to school. Who you are in high school and where you go to college do not define the rest of your life. You still have a lot of future ahead of you. And everything will be fine. I promise.

Tanvir: This is Tanvir Kaur reporting for P.S. Weekly.

Marcellino: If you are a high school senior, what was your experience applying to colleges? If you’re not going to college, what is the alternative path you are taking & been like? Email PSWeekly@chalkbeat.org.

Marcellino: That’s our show for today. We’re off next week for spring break, but we’ll be back with a new episode on May 1st. You won’t want to miss it. Our team sat down with Chancellor David Banks himself…

Episode BANKS Clip Preview:

Chancellor Banks: What is a fun fact that most people don’t know about Chancellor Banks? I would say watch this I’ve never said this to anybody …

Marcellino: Until then… class dismissed!

Marcellino: PS Weekly is a collaboration between The Bell and Chalkbeat, made possible by generous support from The Pinkerton Foundation, The Summerfield Foundation, FJC, and Hindenburg Systems.

This episode was hosted by me, Marcellino Melika.

Producers for this episode were: Christian Rojas Linares and Tanvir Kaur, with reporting help from Chalkbeat reporter Alex Zimmerman

Our marketing lead this week was Salma Baksh.

Our executive producer for the show is JoAnn DeLuna.

Executive editors are Amy Zimmer and Taylor McGraw

Additional production and reporting support was provided by Sabrina DuQuesnay, Mira Gordon, and our friends at Chalkbeat.

Special thanks to our interns Miriam Galicia and Makenna Turner

And also thanks to our amazing team of volunteer mentors.

Music from Blue Dot Sessions.

And the jingle you heard at the beginning of this episode was created by the one and only:

Thanks for tuning in! See you next time!

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