RISING to the Top

Students Find Success in Xaverian Internship Program

In the fall of 2022, Xaverian Head of School Dr. Jacob Conca ’94 sat down with Mr. David Nelson ’02, Director of Annual Fund and Leadership Giving, Mrs. Barbara Mitchell, School Counselor, and Mr. James Scholl ’03, Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement, and tasked the unlikely trio with creating a program that would help set Xaverian students apart in the college applicant pool. “You’re always looking for the differentiator,” says Mrs. Mitchell, “especially at some of the most competitive schools where everyone who is applying has great grades and high test scores.” 

The outcome was the creation of a new internship program with the goal of giving a few highly qualified students the opportunity to engage in valuable, hands-on, real-world experiences. Mr. Nelson, Mrs. Mitchell, and Mr. Scholl sat down for their first planning meeting. The first item on the agenda was to name and brand the program they had begun envisioning. “The name piece was a Holy Spirit moment,” says Mr. Nelson. “We were bouncing names around and Jim said, ‘What about ‘Ryken Internship Student Experience?’ and Barb said, ‘Oh, the acronym is RISE, that’s perfect.’”

On February 6, 2023, all Class of 2024 students received an invitation to apply for RISE. Internships in the fields of law, health technology/computer science, business and project management, supply chain management, construction management, architecture, and sports management were offered to students. “They were only allowed to apply to one,” says Mrs. Mitchell. “We were making them be very purposeful in thinking about what their future might look like and what type of career they want.” 

The process wasn’t an easy one. Describing it as “intense,” the trio says that students had to submit an application, a statement of purpose, and had to take part in one or two interviews depending upon how far they got in the process. In the end, 33 students applied for the seven spots, though after seeing the caliber of candidates, three internship sites offered to take two students each. Although it wasn’t a requirement for RISE employers, all sites for the inaugural year made the decision to pay their interns.

The participants still had a long way to go, however, before their six-week summer internship. Mr. Nelson worked with both the employers and students to set everyone up for success. Three lunch workshops were held for RISE interns. They covered everything from overall work etiquette like the importance of being on time to proper use (or NON-use) of cell phones, to things like being responsive to email and managing time properly. Each student was assigned to Mr. Nelson or Mrs. Mitchell and they provided support before, during, and after the internship experience. 

Randy DiBartola, P ’27, Director of People Operations at NEI, an award-winning contracting and construction management company, went in with high expectations for his intern, Lukas Noriega ’24. “I have a son who currently attends Xaverian and I know the caliber of the young men there. Lukas not only met our team’s expectations, he exceeded them to the point that he’s already accepted an offer to join us again next summer as a Field Operations Intern.” 

Some site supervisors went in with some reasonable trepidation. Joe Wroblewski, P ’23, ’26, Chief Technology Officer of Abacus Health Solutions, was slightly hesitant about bringing in a high school student to work alongside their professional development team, worrying it may be overwhelming for the student or may create additional work for current employees. The reality though, was quite the opposite with his intern, Luke Abruzese ’24. “Fortunately, all my concerns turned out to be unfounded as Luke revealed himself to be a bright, passionate, and curious learner who was eager to take on the challenges presented to him,” says Joe. “He was a hard-working and dedicated employee who worked diligently to achieve high standards of quality and excellence in the work that he performed during his time at our company.” While he was there, Joe says Luke provided real value to the company. “Luke performed some great work with us on a cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) application using cloud-based services to interpret and persist medical information from hand-written forms collected at the point-of-care. On this project, Luke impressed me with his creativity, initiative, and technical skills.”

As they look ahead to next year, Mr. Nelson, Mrs. Mitchell, and Mr. Scholl are excited to continue to build and expand the program. “All seven sites are committed and are enthusiastic about participating for a second year,” says Mrs. Mitchell. “I think it’s a testament to our boys, but also a sign that the process worked well.” For Mr. Nelson, there’s one feeling in particular that sits with him after this experience. “There were so many pieces that had to come together, but the employers felt like we really delivered for them. It made me feel very grateful.” They plan to keep the program very selective but hope to add new internship opportunities like research and engineering.


Is your company interested in applying to become a RISE site? Learn more and complete the interest form at www.xbhs.com/rise

Luke Abruzese ’24 - Abacus Health Solutions
Jack O’Neil ’24 - Barrett Distribution Center
Cooper Witt ’24 - Barrett Distribution Center
Nick Cerone ’24 - Gaston Electrical
Lukas Noriega ’24 - NEI Construction
Antonio Ciolfi ’24 - RBI Baseball Academy
Jacob Stifel ’24 - RBI Baseball Academy
Justin Fannon ’24 - Seegel, Lipshutz, Lo and Martin
Dana Guzzi-Bartholomew ’24 - UDA Architects
Kevin Toland ’24 - UDA Architects

Group Photo: Back Row: Seniors l to r Luke Abruzese, Justin Fannon, Nick Cerone, Lukas Noriega, Cooper Witt, Dana Guzzi. Front Row: Antonio Ciolfi, Jacob Stifel, Kevin Toland, Jack O’Neil
Xaverian is a Catholic, college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7-12. As an inclusive community, we embrace diverse experiences and perspectives, welcoming students and families from all faiths and backgrounds. Through exceptional academics, athletics, the arts, faith formation, and service opportunities, we help young men discover their unique gifts and talents so they can share them with a world in need.