Hundreds of aspiring scientists will be taking their talents to some of the city's best hospitals this summer, raking in up to $1,700 and coveted lab experience at a time when summer jobs are hard to come by.
The students were inducted yesterday afternoon into the Harlem Children Society, a nonprofit program that matches public high school students with professional scientists, and pays the young people a stipend for their work.
Ninety-eight percent of the students are poor, and most are black and Hispanic. According to the program's Web site, all of the interns have gone on to college, 20% of them to Ivy League schools. The program began in 2001 with only three students, all of whom worked in the lab of the president and CEO, Dr. Satyajit Bhattacharya; it has now expanded to 600 interns globally.
"We look for the best, brightest, and unpolished diamond in the worst neighborhoods," Dr. Bhattacharya said. "Maybe that's where the next Einstein or Madame Curie is — the Bronx."
Dr. Bhattacharya said he interviewed more than 1,500 applicants this year, and asked science teachers to recommend five to 10 of their brightest students.
The 265 New York interns this year are paid between $800 and $1,700 for their work, depending on their grade in school, and many said these internships save them from a summer of unemployment in their neighborhoods.
"Jobs are scarce now," a 10th grader at Bard High School Early College, Atalia Lyte, said. "I probably would have been at home in front of the computer wasting a summer," she said.
A rising senior at Manhattan Hunter Science High School, Diana Bailon, returned to the Harlem Children Society for her second year. The 17-year-old said she, too, would probably be sitting at home on Delancey Street this summer if not for the Harlem program.
The same could be said of a graduate of the Young Women's Leadership School in East Harlem, Dalibell Ferreira. "I would have been home, bored," she said. A triplet, she is attending Haverford College in the fall, and her two sisters have also participated in the program.
"Don't take this for granted," Dr. Bhattacharya told the class of interns. "The mentors get no money for this. You are their gems and their stars — the real Harlem stars. So don't let them down."
"A lot of times we always hear the negative of our students, the downside, and we need to do a better job at showcasing their strengths," the deputy mayor of education and community development, Dennis Walcott, said to the students. Mr. Walcott mentioned a recent grant from General Electric and mayoral funding of the sciences as positive signs for high school science students. "We are big believers in you, and we are going to make sure you are the ones we showcase," he said.