At the end of March, we posted a blog about six community schools students who were chosen for a Surveying Technology internship with the Survey Bureau in the Philadelphia Streets Department. The internship is a paid, full-time position that spans over two summers. Upon completion of the program and graduation from high school, each student is eligible to take the civil service exam to become an Engineering Aide 2 with the City of Philadelphia.

Last week, about halfway through their internship, we checked in with some of the students to see how it was going. First, we traveled to a construction site outside of The Gallery at 9th and Arch. Alyssa Russello, a student from South Philadelphia High School was there helping to realign a sidewalk that was being laid.

“We travel all over the city, and working outside, you see all different kinds of people,” Alyssa says, taking a break from setting cones and checking points on the sidewalk. “I like the team members. I’m a social person, so it’s a good environment. I didn’t know if I would be interested in this work, but I’ve really learned to like it. It’s all about learning to me.”

Alyssa is on the job Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm, working full time and earning $10.88 an hour. An added benefit of the job is that she’s keeping her math skills sharp over the summer. Survey Technicians need to have a firm grasp of math to calculate distances. It’s a lot of trigonometry and Alyssa’s been keeping close to her team members to pick up the math.

Alyssa applied for this internship after the Mayor’s Office of Education forged a partnership with Frank Morelli, the Survey Bureau Manager with the Philadelphia Streets Department and the creator of the internship program. The program has funding for six summer internship positions, but he’s hoping to expand the program and grow it to ten positions.

“The Internship program is the best way for us to build a pipeline of talented, young people,” Frank explained. “In addition to being a pipeline for hiring, interns provide much needed surveying assistance to our field crews in the summer months when the demand for surveying services peak. This program builds a pool of candidates who have work experience with us and who have forged relationships with our managers.”

“This is a great opportunity.” Alyssa added. “I would definitely tell anyone interested to take full advantage of this internship. Take a full step forward. It’s worth it.”

Zerrick (left) and Nate (right) on the job in Roxborough

After speaking with Alyssa, we traveled out to Roxborough where we met up with Nathan (Nate) Garcia and Zerrick Nathanial from Kensington Health Sciences Academy where they were helping to stake out property lines.

“I’ve always seen survey guys around the streets, but I never knew what they did.” Zerrick admitted. He’s been staying busy all summer working with his colleagues to learn as much as possible on the job.

“Nate and I have been studying trigonometry on the side and trying to pick up on the math,” Zerrick adds. “I’ve been learning how to set up all the devices and how to set points. You know those nails you see in the ground? Those are from Survey Technicians. Once you notice them, you see PKs (nails) everywhere. They mark property lines. Chances are, there’s one near your house.”

Zerrick’s been enjoying the internship and he’s already looking forward to next summer. “This is a good career to pursue,” he says, “it’ll keep you busy and keep your brain working, instead of just lifting stuff or sitting around.”

“I feel like I learn better out here than teaching myself,” Nate says. “The team is teaching me how to shoot distances and how to figure out the math. I’m looking forward to next summer.”

At the end of August, the students will gather for a small celebration at City Hall to mark the end of the successful summer. The students will be invited to return next summer to finish up their internships. After that, it’s up to them if they plan to pursue a career in survey tech, but one thing is for certain, they’ve done a great job at setting the path for a successful career. 

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Frank Morelli of the Streets Department with Zerrick and Nate on site in Roxborough