Every Wednesday afternoon, KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (NCA) senior Stephen Mertyl commutes from the school’s Littleton Avenue campus to his internship at Audible on Washington Street in downtown Newark. 

While many high school interns spend their time on coffee runs or organizing files, Mertyl is tackling complex problems. He’s hard at work creating a de-bug panel that will help the audiobook company’s iOS developers make changes to the codebase without publishing those changes directly to the app. As part of Audible’s Future Leaders program, he’s been assigned a manager, substantive projects, and receives coaching and feedback. 

“This internship is paid and offers me the opportunity to come back during college to gain experience and earn money over the summer,” said Mertyl, who added that his manager has helped him strategize the best internships to seek out during his college summers to broaden his skillset and help him stand out in a competitive technology workforce.

Stephen Mertyl, KIPP NCA class of 2024, presents his work project to colleagues at Audible. 

Mertyl is one of about 57 students enrolled in Tech Academy, a program at NCA that offers 10th- 12th-grade students career exposure designed to support their success in STEM fields post-graduation. Tech Academy’s program includes coursework in cybersecurity, and introductory and AP computer science classes that give participants the chance to graduate high school with valuable college credits, along with a First Robotics team and internship opportunities. 

(from left to right) Zanaya Meachem, Stephen Mertyl, and Semaj Shaw with KIPP Forward counselor Stephanie Rivera-Beltre. “From our first meetings with students, we are asking them about their interests and trying to line up opportunities that align with their passions,” said Rivera-Beltre

“Tech Academy is preparing students for jobs that might not even exist yet,” said Tech Academy department chair Harold Brown. “Whoever can think outside the box will come up with the best solution and I want our students to be in the room where those conversations are happening. Software development and cybersecurity are fast-growing fields that offer life-changing salaries even at an entry-level position,” he added. 

While Mertyl heads to an Audible internship, NCA senior Zanaya Meachem spends her afternoon at Newark’s University Hospital, shadowing a physician's assistant — setting up patient rooms and supporting the department with paperwork. Meachem is one of 22 students at NCA’s Healthcare Academy who volunteer at the hospital and gain exposure to healthcare careers. Her counselor, Stephanie Rivera-Beltre has supported her college search and steered her toward dual-degree college programs that will allow her to graduate in five years with a health sciences degree and become a physician's assistant.

“I always wanted to help people have a voice and feel supported, and it’s important to me that people who have been under-served in our community have access to healthcare,” said Meachem, who added that her career as a physician assistant would allow her to choose from a variety of medical specialties. As of this writing, she has applied to Seton Hall University, Drexel University, and Monmouth College, to name just a few. 

At KIPP Newark Lab High, senior Azalea Brown is also looking ahead to a career in healthcare and will pursue a bachelor of science in nursing degree next fall. Brown is enrolled in Lab’s ‘Introduction to Healthcare,’ class where she is studying anatomy and physiology. 

After graduation, KIPP Newark Lab High School senior Azalea Brown will pursue her bachelor of science in nursing degree. She has already been accepted to several colleges and looks forward to announcing her decision on Senior Signing Day in May.  

Like Meachem, Brown shadows physicians at University Hospital Newark each Wednesday. “When I found out Lab had a class that allowed me to volunteer at a hospital and study anatomy, I wanted to gain that experience. I’ve learned so much about the structures of working in a medical facility and I get to see different types of careers available to me,” said Brown, who’s currently shadowing an OB-GYN who has inspired her to pursue the field as her nursing specialty. Brown has already gained acceptance to several universities that offer strong nursing programs. 

The KIPP Forward team also facilitates opportunities for students to gain career exposure that will lead them directly to the workforce following graduation through programs with Lincoln Technical Institute and Union College. Senior Semaj Shaw is enrolled in a partnership between NCA and Lincoln Technical Institute and visits Lincoln Tech’s campus monthly to learn the skills he’ll need to become an electrician. 

“I like to learn in a hands-on way. I’ve always been like that, even when I was younger. I even built my computer from scratch,” said Shaw, who’s learning how to fix everything from fire alarms to CCTV systems.  “I like the idea that once I complete the program, I’ll be making an income right off the bat,” he added. 

If you know of anyone in your network who can support the work of Tech Academy and introduce students to opportunities in the STEM field, please email Harold Brown at hbrown@kippnj.org

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