Cornell-bound Voc-Tech student is first Whaling Museum high school apprentice to attend Ivy League school

Do your best, ask for help and help others: keys to success says Daniel Perry

New Bedford, Massachusetts
: Before Daniel Perry leaves for college later this year, he wants to pass on some advice to his fellow students at Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School. “Always do the best you can. Push yourself while also not forgetting to rely on those around you. You can help them and they can help you.” That approach has worked well for Daniel, who is also a New Bedford Whaling Museum high school apprentice. This autumn Daniel will pack his bags and head to Cornell University to study computer engineering. He is the first Whaling Museum apprentice to be accepted into an Ivy League school.

“I’m grateful to the Apprenticeship Program, the Museum, Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs, and to Voc-Tech because they all helped me greatly on my path to Cornell. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” said Daniel, who received a Jacobs Scholarship, named for Dr. Irwin Jacobs and Joan Jacobs, to attend Cornell.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum High School Apprenticeship Program helps low-income, academically motivated New Bedford high school students prepare for college and career while earning a stipend. Daniel applied to the Apprenticeship Program because, “I thought it would give me the chance to interact with my community on a different level,” he said.

Over a span of three years, apprentices develop organizational, team-building, public speaking and problem-solving skills while learning about the Museum, marine science, and the city’s history. Participants receive academic support, and gain specific 21st-century, personal and career readiness skills. The program runs year-round, beginning the summer before a student’s sophomore year and continuing through high school graduation.

Apprentices participate in hands-on programs at the Museum and in the community hosting events and leading activities with the public. Now halfway through his final year as an apprentice, Daniel says that for him, the most valuable aspect of the program has been the chance to develop his communication and interpersonal skills by interacting with his peers, Museum staff and the general public.

Museum staff members have witnessed Daniel’s progress. “Dan seems quiet, but I’ve learned that he is usually waiting for an opportunity to say something interesting. He has an opinion about everything!” said Christina Turner, Director of Apprentices & Interns at the Whaling Museum.

“Dan exemplifies the skills we hope apprentices gain through their time in the program: critical thinking, problem solving, time management and follow-through,” she added.

Since its launch in 2010, 47 students have successfully completed the Apprenticeship Program. “The most dramatic indicator of the program’s effectiveness is that 100% of participants have graduated from high school and 93% were accepted into post-secondary programs, compared to the New Bedford Public School District’s graduation rate of 53.5% in 2010 when the program started and 66.1% in 2015,” said Sarah Rose, Vice President of Education and Programs at the Whaling Museum.

These favorable statistics might be readily achieved if the Apprenticeship Program selected only the brightest students in New Bedford, “…but our targets are actually students who might otherwise go unnoticed – diamonds in the rough,” added Rose. “In addition, our apprentice alumni, by and large, are the first in their families to go to college.”

In addition to Daniel, four other apprentices, Alexandra Binette, Suely Lopes Pereira, Ryland Roderick, and Jessica Semedo Silva are making decisions about college plans for next year.

Daniel says the highlight of his time with the Museum “was most certainly the trip to Iceland.” Six students from the Apprenticeship Program visited their counterparts from the Húsavík Whale Museum in Iceland in April 2016 as part of a youth exchange program called “Connecting Coastal Communities.” This program is funded by a grant from Museum Connect, which is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Rose said, “Our trip to Iceland was the culmination of eight months of work and learning about one another’s cultures, the countries where we live and the Atlantic ocean that connects us.”

As part of their apprenticeship and in preparation for their trip, the New Bedford students created a “Connecting Coastal Communities” website, which includes community and personal profiles, oral histories from community members, whale biology descriptions, and details of local public events pertaining to whales, all of which was shared with the Icelandic students.

Collaborations like these surprised Daniel. “I hadn’t realized how much the Museum interacts with other museums. There is a lot of collaboration going on that you don’t see from the outside.”

The Whaling Museum recently received a three-year $144,500 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to enhance its Apprenticeship Program. Among new services under development is an Apprentice Alumni support network with Bristol Community College, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Bridgewater State University. Chelsea Texeira, a graduate of the Apprenticeship Program in 2015, will assist in establishing new alumni programming. All of the 2016 graduates are attending one of the partner universities: Yamilex Ramos Peguero, Nathan Silveira, Anthony Medeiros and Tyler Amaral.

Program staff is now focused on initiatives to encourage college retention among program apprentice alumni so that they earn a degree. “Many obstacles stand in the way of college graduation for low-income students, but this museum–university partnership model helps students achieve the goals of timely graduation from college and the ability to earn a living wage,” said Rose.

The adults around Daniel who have helped him along the way are excited about his prospects. Dr. Heather Larkin, Director of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Services as G.N.B. Voc-Tech added, “I can’t wait to see what this young man does with his life. I will be following Daniel at Cornell and wherever his career takes him.”

 “Daniel proves that when a community gives students the opportunity to grow, they can excel, blossom, and surpass every obstacle,” said James Russell, President of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.


Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 139 (office)
IMAGES: Contact Gayle Hargreaves for high-res image.


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours: January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Admission is free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6. For more information visit