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Beyond Camp: Five Cool Summer Internships and Jobs

By Amy Zimmer | March 10, 2014 7:19am
 For those looking for alternatives to camp, there are summer internships or jobs at some of the city's most fascinating institutions.
Summer Internships
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MANHATTAN — When camp no longer cuts it for some of New York City's young strivers, summer internships or jobs at some of the most fascinating institutions across the boroughs offer the chance to learn skills, make connections and sometimes even earn cash.

Wave Hill's Forest Project Summer Collaborative

Where: Riverdale, The Bronx

When: June 26 to Aug. 15

Highlights: Interns log a lot of outdoor time on Wave Hill's 28-acre estate. They work in small crews on woodlands restoration — doing trail maintenance, erosion control, removing invasive plant species and taking care of native plants. They also spend one day a week taking an environmental science course at Lehman College.

"They're working outdoors with other kids. There are a lot of speakers and field trips and enrichment opportunities," said Debra Epstein, Wave Hill's director of education. "It's quite a life-changing experience for the kids."

Deadlines and other useful information:  Applications are due March 23.  Roughly 125 students vie for the program's 25 slots. Interns earn $8 an hour. Wave Hill also runs a new 14-month Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship program for low-income or minority New York City high school students.

Eligibility: Students currently enrolled in 10th, 11th or 12th grades with strong academic records.

The New-York Historical Society's Student Historian High School Internship Program

Where: Upper West Side, Manhattan

When: July 8 to Aug. 14

Highlights: There's a reason this program won a 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, one of 12 programs across the nation to achieve this recognition.

Student interns are given ample opportunities to develop leadership and research skills, especially when designing and presenting their own museum tours based on an object of their choice that they research, program coordinator Chelsea Frosini said.

"A lot of interns mention that their experience with public speaking stands out," said Frosini, noting that for many it's their first exposure to the range of jobs in the museum and design world. "They take real pride in sharing what they learned."

Deadlines and other useful information: Applications are due April 23.  The program is highly competitive, with a 10 to 15 percent acceptance rate for its roughly 30 slots. The internship is unpaid, except for New York City high school students eligible for free or reduced lunch, who earn the minimum wage of $8 an hour.

Eligibility: The internship is open to students from the tri-state area currently enrolled in grades 10 through 12.

Billion Oyster Project's Educator Interns for Camp RESTORE

Where: This oyster restoration program takes place on land and sea between Governors Island and Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park.

When: July 14 to Aug. 9, with the option of adding a week on the front or back ends, plus a week in June for mandatory training.

Highlights: Ten educator interns will essentially be "environmental science counselors" for South Brooklyn middle-schoolers participating in Camp RESTORE's four weeklong sessions run by youth organization Good Shepherd Services.

"You spend a lot of time on the water [on kayaks and tall ships] and doing hands-on stuff, [like] analyzing sediment and looking for biodiversity in mud," said Sam Janis, restoration program manager with the 
New York Harbor Foundation, which organizes the summer program with the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island with a focus on maritime education.

Working on the coastal restoration of South Brooklyn is part of the Billion Oyster Project's long-term aquaculture program. It's designed to increase the number of oysters in New York Harbor, which was once covered by more than 220,000 acres of oyster reefs, Janis explained.

Deadlines and other useful information: The admission deadline for the internship, which is in its first year, is rolling. Applicants should send letters of interest and resumes to restore@newyorkharbor.org. The internship is unpaid, but there will be lots of oysters (from cleaner waters) to eat.

Eligibility: The ideal candidate is a high school graduate who is 18 or older and has an interest in the field. But "really motivated" high school students would also be considered, Janis said.

New York Botanical Garden's Science Internship Program

Where: Fordham, The Bronx

When: June 9 through Aug. 15

Highlights: Interns work closely with Garden scientists. They've helped digitize some of the 7.3 million plant specimens in the institution's herbarium, used Global Information Systems data to identify threatened plant species in the West Indies and surveyed New York City plant shops called botanicas, where Latin American immigrants buy ingredients for herbal remedies.

Before his senior year at Bronx Science, Gary Tan spent the summer figuring out how to extract plant DNA in cost-effective ways.

"You learn [research] techniques you wouldn't learn in school, and having a mentor is really helpful and not something you get to experience in regular school either," said Tan, 18, who is now a freshman studying biology at Cornell.

Deadlines and other useful information:  There is no formal application deadline for this unpaid internship, but scientists like to line up their summer interns as far as possible in advance.

Eligibility: College and high school students with a demonstrated interest in science.

The Department of Youth and Community Development's Summer Youth Employment Program

Where: There were more than 6,800 work sites as part of last summer's offerings, including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing and the Recycle-a-Bicycle workshop in Long Island City, Queens.

When: July 7 to Aug. 15

Highlights: Young people work in day camps, law firms and doctors' offices. They are tour guides, interpreters and tree planters. For many participants, like Paulette Joseph, a 16-year-old from Baychester, the program provides a first taste of the working world. 

"It taught me how to manage my time and made me more responsible," Joseph said of her administrative assistant job last summer at the National Financial Network near Wall Street, where she learned, for instance, how to make spreadsheets.

"This was a big job to have," said Joseph, who now dreams of being an investment banker. "I wore a suit everyday."

Deadlines and other useful information: Applications available from March 3. For updates, check www.nyc.gov/dycd or follow DYCD on Twitter or Facebook. Participants are paid $8 an hour for 20 to 25 hours a week. 

Eligibility: The program is open to all New York City residents between the ages of 14 and 24. More than 135,000 young people applied for last summer's roughly 36,000 jobs, which were awarded through a lottery and application process.