Sixteen young interns were honored Wednesday after nine weeks of summer training in masonry and the preservation of monuments at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
“This program is very helpful for people who are not good at college. With this trade, you can have a career,” said Jairo Castillo, 18, a conservatory intern.
Castillo said his favorite part of the program was, “cleaning the monuments because I saw how dirty they were and now you see how nice they look.” Castillo is one of the two interns who were selected for a 19-month paid apprenticeship at Woodlawn’s Conservatory based on his performance as an intern.
Robert Hall, chairman of the Conservatory, said he hopes the program will expand.
“This is a model program to be shared across the country. It’s great to see a program where they learn a skill, go out and get a job then advance to a career from that,” Hall said.
“They have worked and they are learning skills they can use for the rest of their lives which includes a good salary to take care of their families.”
Established in 2015, the program was developed by Woodlawn Conservancy not only to preserve historical monuments, but to teach interns the importance of crafting a resume and networking.
“I think this program is a good start for stable work ethic and to interact and work with other people and get practical experience,” Anjela Rush-Jackson, a parent of an intern said. Jackson said she hopes her son “continues to strive towards his goals and keep accomplishing different things and I hope this will give him a foundation.”
Applicants had to go through rigorous exercises to be selected for the program. There were 60 applicants but only 16, between ages 18 and 24, were selected based on a reading and writing test, a physical check-up and an interview.
Jontae Stanley, 22, was the only female in the group and one of the two who received a paid apprenticeship. She said working with her male colleagues, “was pretty easy. We were working as a team and I made sure I did what I had to do.” Stanley, who has a 2-year-old son, said that she needed a job she can be proud of.
From various experience in retail and as a cashier, Stanley said she knew she liked working with her hands. “It was very hard work but I put my all into it which worked out in my favor.”
Not only are the interns leaving with great experiences, but some are leaving with jobs.
Like Castillo, Stanley will be working at Woodlawn Conservatory for 19-months which will lead her to a full-time career in masonry and building preservation.