First Bosses Program

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St. James School





Organization Overview:

St. James School is a faith-based, non-tuition Philadelphia middle school in the Episcopal tradition, committed to educating traditionally underresourced students in a nurturing environment. The school is a community that provides a challenging academic program and encourages the development of the moral, spiritual, intellectual, physical and creative gifts in its students.

The Graduate Support program (GSP) at St. James School provides holistic support for St. James graduates to and through high school and post-secondary education. The GSP is the unique hallmark of the school's model. With over 90 graduates and four full-time staff members, the program leverages the relationships built during grade school years to empower SJS graduates to graduate from high school, choose a best fit post-secondary education and training plan and enjoy healthy and happy lives into adulthood.

Project Name:

First Bosses Program
Project Type: 
Program Development

Project Overview:

Young people want to work! 

And many need to work. Out of the 27 high school seniors we currently work with 18 self-report that they are required to contribute to their households’ finances each month. This expectation can have negative consequences on young peoples’ education and career development. Among other things, the GSP Workforce Initiative wants to leverage this desire for work to better prepare young people for a long-term career path with a living wage and not just a future dependent on a minimum wage paycheck. 

St. James graduates are pursuing a wide range of post-secondary options including four-year colleges, community college and trade schools. The First Bosses program is determined to broaden the options for those not attending college. For years trade apprenticeships offered a viable path to a well-paying and rewarding career to young people for whom college is not the best choice. However, in the city of Philadelphia, access and exposure to the trades have been virtually non-existent for poor, young people of color, particularly those living in west and north Philly. 

The Graduate Support program's First Bosses program is an effort to reverse this trend and expose SJS graduates to a wide range of post-secondary options that exist outside of the traditional four-year college track. College is not for everybody and with the increasing cost of college, it is becoming less and less viable for high school graduates. 

The first program we are developing within this initiative is a paid, week long school break internship. We will partner with employers to offer a meaningful week of work for our high schoolers. St. James will pay the wages for this program.

The second leg of First Bosses is a paid Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This program partners with a wide range of laborers, contractors and businesses who agree to provide a short-term, hands-on work experience for high school graduates. Students’ work is paid by St. James School GSP for the first month until the point at which their skills are ready for the job market.

We already have funded secured to launch this program, and we are seeking the help of a Fels student to help develop and launch this program. 


A successful project would include elements of the following:

  • Identifying best practices from similar pre-apprenticeship programs around the region and country
  • Researching labor laws to ensure our programs do not violate employment law
  • Networking with and identify employer partnerships including, but not limited to: building trades, health care, independent contractors and more.
  • Building connections with vocational and trade schools for continuing education for participants.
  • Creating program evaluation tools for both students and employers
  • Creating promotional materials for potential students and employer partners


 Project Timeline: There are no specific time constraints. We would like to launch this program in Spring 2021.



Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326