The St. Louis Blues and Cardinal Ritter College Prep have a new scholarship and internship program that is scoring dividends for students Gabrielle James and Jalen Prince.
Geared toward seniors at the archdiocesan high school, the collaboration aims to encourage diversity, inclusion and awareness in the sports and entertainment
industry. The program awards two students selected by the school for a season-long paid internship in the National Hockey League team’s front office and covers tuition for their senior year.
The internship has been “an amazing learning experience,” Gabrielle said, starting with virtual meetings with Blues employees from the various areas of the organization. She also enjoys working with Jalen and others on projects, such as the Cardinal Ritter Nights fundraiser at two games. They met with the analytics group, learned about the game-day programming and worked with the people creating content for the Blues website, for example. They also analyzed the after-game surveys fans do, pointing out what fans enjoy or would like to see added or changed.
Gabrielle has been involved as a teacher’s assistant with Aim High and with several extracurricular programs such as the Intern Leadership Program, Student Ambassador, President’s Task Force and more. She’s received numerous awards from the UMSL Bridge Program, Cardinal Ritter and others.
Gabrielle hadn’t been aware of a lot of the aspects the game of hockey previously, but now has developed that interest.
Jalen has worked part-time at St. Nicholas Parish and volunteered there weekends with the roller skating program. He is a recipient of the St. Charles
Lwanga Center’s Testimonial Youth Award. He played football at Cardinal Ritter and was part of the Intern Leadership Program. He’ll attend Beloit College in Wisconsin in the fall and play on the football team.
“It was a big deal to be selected, very humbling,” Prince said. “I thank God for this opportunity and I thank the teachers, staff and the Blues organization. They’ve showed us a lot of aspects, different ways they get the organization to run as a whole.”
He enjoys seeing the behind-the-scenes management of the game and the various groups of employees who pull each game together. “It takes more work than you’d think, so many tasks they have to get done.”
One of the best decisions he and his family made was for him to attend Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Prince said. “Sports, academics, the curriculum is great. I love Cardinal Ritter.”
He also appreciates religion classes, calling them challenging.
Hannah Arnold, director of community engagement and Blues for Kids with the St. Louis Blues, said so much happens behind the scenes to provide a good product before the fans. The two students have an opportunity to communicate with fans. “They’ve both been so wonderful, adaptive, willing and eager to learn and do different things,” Arnold said.
On a recent workday, Arnold talked with the interns about an item they’re writing for the Blues website. She also discussed Hockey Fights Cancer nights with proceeds to benefit Siteman Cancer Center and the Blues for Kids grant program, providing funds to cancer care and awareness.
Tamiko Armstead, president of Cardinal Ritter College Prep, said the new partnership will provide much-needed opportunities for African-American students. “Overall, this program will offer all of the recipients invaluable real-world professional experience as well as increase the exposure and interest in hockey among our students,” she said.
Blues President and CEO Chris Zimmerman said in a news release that the initiative “is an important step in our continued efforts to make our sport welcoming to everyone.”
The students selected for the program support initiatives across a wide spectrum of Blues business platforms. Their main objective was planning and executing the Hockey is for Everyone and Cardinal Ritter College Prep Nights, which were held during the Blues home series on April 9-10. Fans supported the cause through various efforts, including a silent auction, which included a signed Ryan O’Reilly jersey, a Stanley Cup Final puck autographed by Jordan Binnington and more. The proceeds of the auction, $4,600, went to Cardinal Ritter College Prep and will be used to support future student scholarships.
The nights also brought attention to the work the school is doing in the community. Fans enjoyed two Blues victories, 9-1 April 9 with an O’Reilly hat trick, and a 3-2 win April 10 on an O’Reilly goal in overtime.