Students working through the summer, gaining experience and perspective

One young woman holds a large plastic garbage bag as another deposits trash while they work to clean up the Fruit Belt neighborhood.
Pictured: Destiny Anglada and Olivia Alvarado are two of the 20 students who spent part of their summer beautifying the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

Summer jobs are a part of the teenage experience. But instead of scooping ice cream, waiting tables or working at an amusement park, nearly 70 high schoolers from Western New York are spending their summer helping their community.

Thanks to Mayor Byron Brown’s summer job program and its partnership with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, student workers have been beautifying the Fruit Belt community, helping patients navigate their appointments within the center and adding to their resumes in unexpected ways.

Jacob Rivera will be a senior at City Honors in the fall but is already well on his way to impressing colleges next year. He applied for the summer jobs program when his social sciences teacher mentioned it, and seeing an opportunity to gain work experience, he took a position in facilities management at Roswell Park. However, when some of the program’s administrators learned of his interest in engineering and aerospace technology, they made a few changes.

Young man with curly hair smiles while standing in front of a striped curtain.
Jacob Rivera

Jacob has been working in computational fluid dynamics and has put together a wiring diagram for new water meters in use around Roswell Park’s campus. “I’m reaching out to the producers of that product to try and get information,” he says. He also designed an infographic on how to use a new launch system for desktop-based computer applications.

That’s not all he’s doing this summer: Jacob spends his mornings at Roswell Park before going to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus to work as a research assistant for PhD students exploring participle dispersion and how air in a room or space can be cleaned to prevent the transmission of airborne diseases and irritants. Then, at night, he’s part of a virtual team of young people at NASA, developing mission design systems for the El Nino Southern Oscillation Satellite to study weather patterns. “We’re trying to get our mission design published in the journal Space and Rockets, which is a leading journal in the aerospace industry.”

His work this summer at Roswell Park was not what he expected, but in a good way. “I’ve been learning every day. Being here and learning things can open doors to future opportunities for me. Learning specific systems is important and I’m glad they’re willing to teach me.”

Medical careers on the horizon

Nadia Loggans just graduated from Tapestry Charter School but she’s already looking ahead to her career: She wants to be a heart surgeon and will be pre-med when she starts at Hilbert College soon.

She’s spent the past five summers working the summer jobs program, including a previous stint with another medical facility, to gain as much experience working with patients and in a clinical setting as possible. This summer she’s been working in the education department at Roswell Park.

“It’s gotten me further than other jobs. I feel like it’s going to be much better when I apply for jobs and they see that, throughout the years, I’ve worked at hospitals,” she says.

Nadia says having experience interacting with patients, in addition to the more office-based and clerical side of hospital operations, will help prepare her for her future.

“People will notice that you did something with your summer,” she says.

Christian Cabrera is another recent graduate, from Canisius High School, who has a medical career in his future. He’s hoping to follow in his family’s tradition of becoming a nurse.

Young man wearing a face mask stands in front of flowers inside Kaminski Park.
Christian Cabrera

This summer, he worked in patient transport at Roswell Park, moving people from one part of the center to another between appointments.

He enjoys working with both the patients and the medical staff, getting to see some people several times and over the course of a week. “It makes me feel more grateful to have my health,” he says. “I’m putting in for the community. I’m helping people all day and it feels really good.”

Christian says he probably walks about five miles a day as he moves patients to their appointments. He doesn’t mind, though; he welcomes the opportunity to practice his people skills and knows this will help him when he’s working as a nurse later.

“I think working at Roswell Park sets you up really well for college or your senior year of high school,” he says. “Whatever you’re doing, you’re meeting lots of people. That helps with people skills and to be more open. That’s really important to be a better person for your community and your family.”

Community outreach at Roswell Park

Learn more about how Roswell Park puts its resources to work for our community.

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Cleaning up the community

A group of 20 students are moving throughout Buffalo neighborhoods, helping to keep them beautiful.

Olivia Alvarado lives in Grand Island and has enjoyed the chance to spend some time in the Fruit Belt neighborhood and downtown Buffalo in general.

“I like that it’s a lot more about helping the community and it’s a good experience because I haven’t really been in a downtown area as much,” she says. “I appreciate having the opportunity to make a difference.”

Sabbin Ahammad wanted to enroll in the summer work program to get some work experience. “I’ve never worked before. I wanted the experience for college and it looks good on a resume. I thought it would be useful if I could help the community in any way. It’s been fun!”

The students have been welcomed by the neighborhoods in which they’re working.

“It means so much to the neighbors here that we came out to help our community,” says Dwayne Jones. “You never know how much you can do that will mean a lot to a person. It really does make a difference. Working around Roswell Park, it makes you proud to help your community.”

Some of these students will go back to school not just with the experience they’ve gained, but with an employment opportunity at Roswell Park that lasts throughout the year.