On Thursday March 24th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, along with Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker II, paid a visit to Malden High School. He and many other politicians and educational workers were there to discuss the school’s partnership with the Commonwealth Corporation, as well as the success of both the Youthworks Program and the Signal Success Curriculum, the latter of which is a voluntary career-readiness program that was originally established in urban high schools, but it is now being adopted by schools around the state. Other people in attendance included Mayor Gary Christenson, Superintendent David Derousi Jr., Teacher Kelli Collomb, Principal Dana Brown and others.
Signal Success was first launched in the 2014-2015 school year in Lowell, Malden and the community-based organization Sociedad Latina. Each high school had 25 students participate. During the 2015-2016 school year, the program drastically expanded to 10 high schools with a total of 1,600 participants. Malden High School expanded the program as well, having 300 participants this year because the school had found its curriculum to be extremely beneficial to the success of students .
The Commonwealth Corporation created and administers the program, a quasi-state agency under the Executive Office of Labor and workforce Development. The Corporation is working to expand the program to the 2016-2017 school year as well. Secretary of Education Jim Peyser says that “The Signal Success curriculum is a great example of collaboration between educators and workforce development partners to improve college and career readiness. The skills students learn through this curriculum can help them be more successful in their education, in their work, and in their life,”.
Mayor Christenson opened up the meeting, thanking Baker for coming to the school and for his “efforts on leading the way on a city like ours, being able to implement and utilize this program” Baker then acknowledges that the Youthworks Program “helps teenagers develop the skills and appreciation for the kinds of jobs the program offers ”. He remembers his first jobs as pumping gas and as an usher in a movie theater, and has always thought that “the earliest work experiences I’ve had taught me a lot of lessons that turned out to be really valuable. [He] thinks that the most important thing about a program like this is that it helps kids figure out exactly how to direct their motivation to be successful”.
The governor also compares employment to meeting new people. He comments that “when you meet somebody for the first time, and one of them knows your friend, your friend’s opinion seals the deal. He uses this analogy to explain that “employment works like this: you get a job you’re organized, you do the things people hope that you do. Then it’s a year later, when you’re looking for next job, you get interviewed by someone in a company, but they don’t know if you will be the things you claimed you were during the interview. They call the people you previously worked for and they ask about you, and their opinion of you determines your employment”. He claims that “one of the most important things to remember about this is really the way a lot of stuff happens in the job market, and it’s really no different from the way it happens is life. A lot of life is about referrals, and it's the same way with jobs. In addition to the chance to earn money, referrals will bring people who want to see you succeed and are in a position to make that happen”.
Derousi adds since these teenagers “have grown up in the city, [they] need these skills. Right now, [the students] are competing for jobs with adults, and any skills we can give [teenagers] academically and with hands-on job training will allow [teenagers] to have a step up”. Secretary Walker claims that “Since taking office last year, [the Baker-Polito administration] has made workforce development a top priority. With Signal Success [the Baker-Polito administration] can help young people learn the soft-skills they need to be productive and valued members of a team.”