On enrolling at Rutgers, Keith Dupree was little aware of the ventures that were ahead of him. Dupree, a former foster child, was not only able to reunite with his sister but also create a small family at Rutgers. A lot of this was possible through the Transitions for Youth Summer Housing and Internship Program (SHIP).
Dupree, a fifth year School of Environmental and Biological Sciences student, participated in the SHIP program during both the 2013 and 2015 summers. SHIP is a twelve-week program that offers summer housing to the New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) scholarship recipients, at Rutgers' Camden, New Brunswick, and Newark campuses, and Montclair State University, said Maureen Braun Scalera,director of the Office of Child Welfare Initiatives at Rutgers University School of Social Work.
Scalera said youth who are not able to return to their biological parents or are adopted before they turn 21 “age out” of the child welfare system without having a permanent family support system. This is the population that the School of Social Work works with, through their Transitions for Youth program, which serves about 400 students a year and 60 during the summer through SHIP and Summer Internship Program (SIP).
SHIP and SIP, offers participating youth the ability to take a 3-credit college course of their choosing, a paid internship closely aligned with their career goals, support coaching, weekly workshops, cultural and recreational activities. The program is funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Scalera said.
During his first year in SHIP, Dupree interned at Rutgers Residence Life, where he learned professional skills, event planning, and budgeting. During his second year, Dupree said he interned at a manufacturing plant in quality assurance and really benefited from the experience, since it directly ties in with his concentration and career interests in the food industry.
“SHIP internships really help you prepare for the future. The skills the program gives are very important, professionally and personally,” Dupree said. “The most important resource to me is the emotional support of having a support coach, who is free to meet with us once a week, help with financial planning, career planning and any personal support,” Dupree said.
Scalera, too, appreciated the holistic nature of the program. “We provide a wholesome and productive summer experience for our youth. Our students have secure housing, paid employment, support, and get to enjoy cultural and recreational activities,” she said.
To donate to the program, a donation can be made to the Transitions for Youth account, said Sara Munson, executive director of the Institute for Families. These donations are used to meet the emergency needs of the program’s participants, whether be it textbooks, food or housing,
As for Dupree, internships aren’t the only thing he has found through SHIP. He has found a home.
“The best part of the program is that it feels like home. You really get to meet a bunch of people in similar situations, so it feels like a family,” he said.
“You can see how people are really trying to make the best of everything. It’s also very comforting because it makes you feel that there are people who care and want to see you succeed.”
PHOTO: Rutgers alumni Don and Penny Pray recently donated duffle bags to participants of the Summer Housing and Internship Program (SHIP) and Student Internship Program (SIP). The Prays have been longtime contributors to scholarships for these students. “We are pleased to support the program over the years and have seen the transformational impact it has had on the lives of students,” notes Don Pray.”