La Salle partners with Johnson & Johnson on education initiative for high school students

The Bridge to Employment program provides students with enhanced academic and real-world experiences.

La Salle University’s School of Business has partnered with global healthcare company Johnson & Johnson on a three-year education initiative to provide learning opportunities, professional direction, and career readiness skills for Philadelphia high school students. 

Philadelphia Education Fund launched the Philadelphia site for Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment (BTE) program, for which La Salle will serve as a partner.  

The three-year BTE program introduces high school students to a broad array of careers in the healthcare and science fields by providing them with enhanced academic and real-world experiences.  

For this installment, Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment program has recruited 40 10th-grade students—28 from Mastery Charter School’s Lenfest Campus in Old City and 12 more from its Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia. To participate, the students must maintain good academic standing with their respective schools and make a three-year commitment to the program, delivered to them free of charge. 

As a partner, La Salle’s Department of Business Systems and Analytics (BSA) will deliver multiple virtual and on-campus events and programs each semester over the next three years. For this current academic year, La Salle is planning workshops focused on career exploration, college readiness resources, soft skills, time management, and self-advocacy said Nilofar Varzgani, Ph.D., an assistant professor of business systems and analytics and La Salle’s BTE liaison. 

“This partnership is a great demonstration of the Lasallian core values of diversity, inclusion, and common good,” Varzgani said. “Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment program has provided high school students with meaningful educational experiences and career prep to help set them up for success as they head off to college. La Salle is proud to partner with BTE to offer these opportunities to Philadelphia high schoolers.” 

Unique to La Salle, the University is recruiting current students from its School of Business to serve as peer mentors to the 40 high school students participating in J&J’s Bridge to Employment program. La Salle’s business students will partner with Johnson & Johnson employees volunteering as professional volunteer mentors to the students. 

“Our School of Business students will serve as peer mentors to the BTE high school students, alongside the Johnson & Johnson mentors,” Varzgani said. “This tandem mentorship approach is quite unique and holistic, since it is not only going to the benefit the high school students in gaining practical advice, encouragement, and support, but it also helps La Salle students in building connections, gaining enhanced cultural awareness, and acquiring improved reasoning and communication skills. It will also be a great addition to their resumes.” 

Housed in La Salle’s School of Business, the BSA program is an ideal fit because of its designation as a STEM-certified program based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security criteria, said Madjid Tavana, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department. 

“Research shows that high school students who become excited about science are those who will pursue STEM education after graduation, major in STEM degrees in college, and perhaps make the life-changing discoveries of tomorrow,” Tavana said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the program’s participants. Our students get to work closely with them and support them through the program, and they also get a chance to work with Johnson & Johnson, a multinational corporation developing medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer packaged goods. This program is a win-win for all participants.” 

For nearly three decades, Johnson & Johnson’s BTE program has inspired young people, typically aged 14 to 18, to stay in school, achieve academic excellence, and elevate their career aspirations. As a result, the program has increased the number of students interested in careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as the manufacturing and design industries. 

Through workshops, mentoring, site visits, career panels, BTE supports students in three areas: academic enrichment; career exploration and readiness; and higher education preparation and exploration. By their senior year in high school, program participants have acquired time management, study, teamwork, and communication skills. They are aware of the practical applications of scientific information in everyday life.  

Each Bridge to Employment site works with an independent site evaluator to conduct assessments. Data gathered will be used to understand the BTE program’s effectiveness and impact on youth and guide continuous program improvement, build broader community support and awareness, and promote sustainability. 

—Christopher A. Vito 

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