High School Apprenticeship Program


High School Apprenticeship Program

New Bedford Whaling Museum
18 Johnny Cake Hill
New Bedford, MA 02740
Phone: 508.997.0046 ext. 186
Fax: 508.997.0018
E-Mail: cturner@whalingmuseum.org
URL: whalingmuseum.org

Focus: History, Museum

Annual Number Participating: 18

Ages: 15–18

Annual Budget: $225,000

Partners: Bridgewater State University; Bristol Community College; DreamWakers; Immigrants’ Assistance Center; Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts; New Bedford Public Schools; UMass Dartmouth

Funders: Bristol County Savings Charitable Foundation; Howard Bayne Fund; Institute of Museum and Library Services; Island Foundation; Jessie Ball duPont Fund; Massachusetts Cultural Council, YouthReach Program

The mission and educational content of the New Bedford Whaling Museum (NBWM) play a significant role in successfully executing its High School Apprenticeship Program. The museum strives to translate its worldwide focus on whales’ interactions with humankind into exhibitions and programs that fascinate the public. Many of these programs address global issues, including the status of whales today and how to protect them. Young people in the Apprenticeship Program not only learn about the museum, but also benefit from opportunities to expand their community involvement through diverse academic experiences. The skills that they develop as Apprentices, such as communication and public engagement, help them achieve their goals in school and beyond.

Structured to engage high school students for three years, the Apprenticeship Program exposes them to all facets of the industry that distinguished New Bedford as “the city that lit the world.” Prerequisites include a 100 percent commitment from students and their families, coupled with an eagerness to learn. Interested freshmen fill out an application, and in the summer, museum staff and community experts begin teaching the selected Apprentices about the museum’s mission, content, and daily operations. The gallery’s exhibitions serve as a starting point.

Students also examine New Bedford’s place in history, such as its connection to Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad, as well as the culture, language, and accomplishments of Azorean and Cape Verdean immigrants. By the end of their first summer, Apprentices have a deeper understanding of the NBWM. Working closely with research librarians and museum experts, they develop guided tours of exhibitions from their own perspectives.

After school and on some weekends, students take part in hands-on activities, workshops, and museum events. They also receive a stipend that increases annually, to ensure that students can fulfill their commitment. Team building, project-based learning, and museum involvement continue throughout the program. By the third year, Apprentices have become experts who mentor their younger counterparts.

Students also gain access to unique opportunities. For example, a cultural exchange trip to Iceland’s Húsavík Whale Museum promoted ocean conservation. And, collaborating with the Community Boating Center, Apprentices built and rowed a boat. This exercise honed students’ technical skills, while teaching them about—and staying true to—New Bedford’s port city roots.

Since the program began in 2010, the number of annual participants has increased dramatically. More than 50 students have completed Apprenticeship training. Of these, 100 percent have graduated from high school, and more than 93 percent have enrolled in post-secondary programs. An Alumni Network helps Apprentices stay connected, and paid NBWM internships support college freshmen. This circle of learning and mutual commitment allows younger Apprentices to see where all of their efforts can lead.

The museum’s commitment to providing internships and employment to alumni of the High School Apprenticeship Program is a tangible way to keep local students connected to the area through the early years of their career. It also serves as a motivating factor for students to “stay local” and use their education to better their communities.

Michele Roberts Executive Vice President & Community Relations Officer,
County Savings Bank