Friday, February 12, 2016

JFK student interns get to try out careers

By Maya Rajamani
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Samuel Rojas, 18 and Marylyn Cruz, 17, at Williams Funeral Home in Kingsbridge where they have had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business.

When a Vietnam veteran from Riverdale passed away last month, high school senior Samuel Rojas folded his flag. He placed it on the veteran’s casket and wrapped a rosary around the man’s wrist. The veteran, he said, was a devout Catholic.

Funeral home director Andrew Williams was surprised Samuel was familiar with the formal flag-folding ritual.  

“I learned how to fold a flag in Boy Scouts when I was 13,” Samuel said. “Never forgot how to do it.”

Mr. Williams, who operates Williams Funeral Home on Broadway, invited Samuel to attend the man’s ceremony, but the student declined. 

“It must have been nice to watch, but that’s not my place,” he said. 

Samuel is an intern at Mr. Williams’ funeral home, along with fellow John F. Kennedy High School senior Marylyn Cruz. The school’s internship program, which works in conjunction with East Side House Settlement in the south Bronx, places students in paid after-school internships. The funeral home’s interns work there Monday through Friday for two hours after school. 

While their internship is hardly typical, Samuel and Marylyn sought out the positions, and have found a place of unexpected solace and inspiration in the funeral home. The students are not allowed in the morgue area, but they are kept busy. Samuel does maintenance work while Marylyn assists with administrative duties, including making prayer cards, and both students often console family members of the deceased. 

“It sounds strange to most people, but it takes a certain kind of someone to deal with someone’s loved one with the same care that they would deal with them for themselves,” Samuel said. “I kind of fell in love with it.”

Far from funereal

The two students are far from funereal. As they sit at a long table in one of the home’s rooms, a wall lined with urns behind them, they exude positivity and joke together. Samuel was an active member of Kennedy’s football team this past fall; Marylyn plans to run for prom queen at Kennedy and says her friends call her “smiley” because of her positive attitude. 

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