City of Pittsburgh​’s summer internship program helps teens build a future

With the help of JF&CS’s participation in the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program (PSYEP), Cheyenne Johnson, a 17-year-old high school senior, applied to the summer program and was part of a lottery for an internship placement ranging among several organizations throughout the community. She was placed at the Jewish Association on Aging’s Weinberg Terrace working with older adults, which ended up being a perfect fit.

“When I turn 18, I want to become a caregiver,” Cheyenne said. “I always had a connection with people and older adults — and a lot of people have difficulty connecting with older adults. I really like connecting with the residents and listening to their stories.”

Benefiting teens and young adults between the ages 14-21, PSYEP, a program of the Pittsburgh Partnership, chooses several area agencies to match at-risk, low-income and refugee youth from neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh with paid internship opportunities at community organizations for six weeks during the summer. The program helps teens and young adults gain valuable skills to prepare them for joining the workforce or continuing their education after high school, and for many of the participants, this internship is their first experience in the workforce.

At her internship, Cheyenne has spent the past six weeks helping senior residents at Weinberg Terrace exercise and participate in social and recreational activities. She became a companion and friend to many residents, and many of the older adults she works with daily request her personally.

Cheyenne Johnson at her PSYEP internship at Weinberg Terrace.

Michael Harston was also placed at Weinberg Terrace for his PSYEP internship and was so committed to participating in the program that the 14-year-old soon-to-be high school freshman gave up football practice for the summer.

“I’m a little worried about making the football team in the fall,” he said, “But overall it’s been pretty good. It was something to do for the summer and helped me get experience. Some of the people are pretty cool; some are Holocaust survivors or from different places and I’ve made friends with the residents.”

Michael Harston also spent his summer at Weinberg Terrace as part of the PSYEP internship.

This summer, JF&CS placed 20 interns at 7 sites, including JF&CS and the Jewish Association on Aging’s facilities (The Residence at Weinberg Terrace, Charles Morris Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Weinberg Terrace Personal Care Residence), as well as the Jewish Community Center, Kingsley Association and Off the Floor Pittsburgh. In addition to learning job-readiness skills such as attendance, punctuality, quality of work and appropriate business attire, the teens and young adults were mentored along the way to ensure continued success throughout the program. They received guidance on taking initiative, following direction and respecting supervisors, clients and people from various cultures, races and religions.

Tara Bailey, Activities Director at Weinberg Terrace Personal Care Residence, supervised Cheyenne and Michael throughout the duration of their internships.

“When they’re not here, we don’t have enough time to spend one-on-one with our residents,” she said. “They’re getting first-hand knowledge and experience, and learning quite a bit! The residents are even requesting time with our teens.”

“Their impact has been tremendous,” she continued. “I worked with interns before and I’ve been blessed with these teens. It’s often sink or swim when you’re working with older adults, and they both swam the entire ocean.”

For five years, JF&CS has partnered with local employers to provide young adults with opportunities to experience the human service and business aspects of local agencies first-hand, helping motivated youth take the first steps toward building their careers and futures in our region.

Jeanne Williams, career and employment counselor at JF&CS’s Career Development Center coordinates the program.

“PSYEP is a wonderful opportunity and preventative tool for youth throughout our communities,” she said, “It’s allowing teens and young adults to access opportunities they would not have been able to otherwise, so hopefully they will not fall into at-risk situations in the future.”

Additionally, JF&CS is committed to providing programs and services for at-risk young adults in our communities, most notably through Age Up, Not Out (AUNO), a unique partnership between JF&CS and YouthWorks, a program of Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and funded by the United Way of Allegheny County. AUNO serves young adults between the ages of 18-24 who no longer qualify for the foster care system and are considered at-risk for high rates of unemployment, pregnancy, homelessness, substance abuse, dependence on welfare and involvement in crime. AUNO is a comprehensive approach to helping youth become economically successful and provides participants with job-readiness tools and emotional support to prepare them for life-long employment through providing job-readiness curriculum, workshops on resumes and cover letters, networking, interviewing, money management, job search assistance, vocational job training recommendations, guidance in entrepreneurship and connections to valuable social service providers based on individualized needs.

At JF&CS, we believe that providing quality opportunities and mentoring support for our community’s youth, teens and young adults, with the help of a caring community, is key to helping at-risk populations realize that they can build a better tomorrow. For more information on how you can become involved in helping local youth, contact Jeanne Williams at 412-586-3725 or

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