Whitney Harmel (l) and Katisi Henderson (r). Courtesy Photos)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer

This July, roughly 23 local public school educators are set to participate in the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Teacher Externship Program. 

The four-week program, running from July 10 to Aug. 4, pairs high school teachers and counselors with leading Maryland businesses for hands-on learning experiences in industries associated with classroom subjects, and the chosen educators receive a stipend for their participation. 

“Who better to train than the trainers? We train the teachers, showing them what’s available and what’s happening at a business in their own backyard,” said Whitney Harmel, executive director of the Maryland Chamber Foundation. 

“They’re able to bring that [knowledge] back into their high school and share the knowledge not only with students but fellow teachers, parents, guidance counselors and career counselors to make people aware of what’s really going on in business.” 

The Maryland Chamber Foundation was first established in 1987, but the organization remained largely dormant for decades until it was revived in 2017. The nonprofit organization works to advance the research and educational aims of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Whitney Harmel is the executive director of the Maryland Chamber Foundation, a nonprofit organization that
furthers the research and education objectives of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Created in 2019, the Teacher Externship Program is the organization’s signature program. It started with just three teachers and has grown to serve more than 20 each year. 

Aside from the stipend and externship experience, educators also have the chance to obtain four professional development credits through the Maryland State Department of Education if they design a lesson plan after the externship and share the results. 

According to Harmel, a primary goal of the program is to expose educators and counselors to the catalog of livable wage opportunities that are available to youth once they graduate high school. 

“There’s just unlimited opportunity in this state, and we want to be able to share that with teachers so that they can share that with the masses back at their schools,” said Harmel. 

Host companies for the 2023 Teacher Externship Program include AstraZeneca, W.E. Bowers, Freestate Electrical Companies, Harris, DAP Global Inc., Hatzel & Buehler, Inc., the Baltimore Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC), KCI Technologies, Rosendin Electric, Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare and Whiting-Turner. 

Kaiser Permanente is participating in the program for the third year in a row. 

“Kaiser Permanente recognizes the vital role that teachers play in shaping the future of our workforce and communities, and the Teacher Externship Program provides a unique, invaluable way to build bridges with educators who can empower our future workforce with information about a variety of job opportunities, in-demand skill sets and fulfilling careers that await them,” said Gracelyn McDermott, vice president of marketing, sales and business development for Kaiser Permanente. 

“As a host company, we are able to promote our commitment to supporting education and professional development in our community, as well as grow partnerships with like-minded organizations.” 

Kaiser Permanente’s curriculum for the externship program focuses on the founding and origin of the healthcare organization, community impact and client engagement, the nonprofit’s integrated care delivery model and its national platform. 

Katisi Henderson is a counselor at Joppatowne High School in Harford County, Md. She participated in the Teacher Externship Program last summer and worked alongside BGE’s human resources department.

Katisi Henderson, a counselor at Joppatowne High School in Harford County, Md., participated in the Teacher Externship Program last year. She was paired with BGE for the externship. 

During the program, Henderson primarily worked with BGE’s human resources department. She admired the level of open communication between the team there and how they helped one another to better perform their duties. 

Every meeting that the department held opened up with an obscure fact, so that employees could learn something new. Henderson said that the team also asked her to share her thoughts on how BGE could improve its workforce training programs for high school students. 

Before participating in the experience, Henderson said she wasn’t aware of how many workforce development opportunities were available to youth and young adults at BGE. She was able to share them not only with her students but their parents as well. 

“This program shows that as educators, we’re still learning, we care and we want to better ourselves,” said Henderson.

“We want to make sure that students are ready and equipped to launch out of high school or middle school to reach the next level, whatever that level is.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member. 

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