Teen Innovators at BLDG 92


Teen Innovators at BLDG 92

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: 718.222.4111 ext. 228
Fax: 718.222.3794
E-Mail: education@brooklynhistory.org
URL: brooklynhistory.org and brooklynnavyyard.org

Focus: History, Humanities, Language Arts

Annual Number Participating: 25

Ages: 15–18

Annual Budget: $57,500

Partners: Bedford Academy High School; Benjamin Banneker Academy for Community Development; Brooklyn Frontiers High School; Brooklyn International High School; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and Employment Center; Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts; George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School

Funders: Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; The Pinkerton Foundation

Among the first U.S. naval shipyards created in 1801, the Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY) accommodated the nation’s evolving needs for innovative military equipment until its decommission in 1966. The Yard has since matured into a leader in industrial ingenuity, a job creator, and a workplace of men and women representing diverse ethnicities. The BNY’s Building 92—once the marine commandant’s historic home—is now a multiuse structure that features exhibitions, an employment center, classrooms, and leasable space, among other functions. It also serves as a home base for the Teen Innovators (TI) at BLDG 92 program, an initiative of the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). High schoolers gain access to BNY’s rich history, as well as to 300 tenant companies and their resources. Combined with training that develops students’ academic and career skills, the program fuels an entrepreneurial mind-set.

For three months after school, BHS educators teach 11th and 12th graders how to apply a historian’s tools to achieve professional success. Research activities assess students’ job readiness, as they gain competency in social studies, in verbal and written expression, and in digital and social media. The TI also utilize archival research to examine wartime production, the economic vitality of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods, the role of influential people of color dating back to the American Revolution, and more.

During their training, students refine their writing and in-person interview skills through placement in unpaid “earn-ternships” (emphasizing that internships must be earned). They also learn how to develop a résumé, research a company, craft interview questions, present themselves professionally, and conduct an informational interview. Site visits to the BNY’s tenants expose youth to businesses in technology, manufacturing, and design—positioning them to learn directly from the industry leaders who provide the sought-after paid internships.

Mid-program, students participate in a Lincoln–Douglas debate, before a live audience. They must argue either in support of or in opposition to a topic consistent with what they’ve learned about BNY’s past, present, and future. Their performance—along with such factors as attendance, completion of assigned tasks, engagement during site visits, company research, and group participation—allows the BHS and BNY staff to determine paid internship eligibility.

During the 2016–17 session, 96 percent of TI received paid internships with a BNY tenant company, providing these students with an edge toward employability. In addition to roles in bookkeeping and marketing, interns also created apps and worked in a virtual reality studio. A remarkable 99 percent of the TI were college-bound after their high school graduation. Many continued to work at BNY companies as paid summer interns, and ultimately, one youth accepted a full-time position. Program alumni also return as mentors and fellows, guiding current students into 21st century careers.

I have seen students who were reticent and shy flourish as a result of the knowledge and confidence they acquired from being part of [Teen Innovators at BLDG 92]. In addition to increasing their academic knowledge and their passion for learning about history, the program afforded them an opportunity to apply the skills acquired in class in the real world.

Karen Best Assistant Principal, Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School
of the Arts