What can a high school student who aspires to be a musician learn about her future from a tour of the Dundalk Marine Terminal?
A lot, according to Kenwood High freshman Jen Carter, 15, who spent yesterday morning with the Maryland Port Administration's assistant manager of terminal operations, Mary Ellen Carroll.
"I'm going to be in the business world as a musician," said Jen, a member of Kenwood's band who plays a variety of instruments.
"But even if you're going to be a technician, you still need to know about the business world. This helps me learn that."
Jen was one of 700 Maryland students who took part yesterday in a new state government program called "Give A Kid a Dream." It was undertaken in cooperation with Maryland's Tomorrow, a five-year, statewide, drop-out prevention program that follows students through high school and for a year after graduation.
"We want to help them achieve their potential," said Sharon Spielmann, the guidance counselor for Maryland's Tomorrow at Kenwood, who accompanied Jen on her tour. Spending a half day with a state employee, Ms. Spielmann said, makes the real demands of a full-time job "more meaningful to the students . . . we're trying to expose them to the world of work."
Ms. Carroll, who volunteered to be a "mentor" to a high school student for a half day, started with the Port Administration more than 20 years ago as a switchboard operator. Her profession, she told Jen, is male-dominated, and she's "worked hard to break a lot of barriers."
"We were really looking forward to this today," she added. "We like to show off."
Forty students from around the state toured various parts of the port yesterday -- 23 of them from Kenwood.
Jen's tour included a visit to the bridge of the Transroll Sea-Land, a German container ship that was docked to unload, among other cargo, several subway cars bound for Virginia and Washington.
She watched the massive cranes lift and move containers on and off the vessel, and learned a bit about the history of the Dundalk Marine Terminal, which sits on the site of the original Friendship Airport.
The Maryland's Tomorrow program has "really helped me with my grades . . . my self esteem," Jen said. A failing student last year, Jen said she's expecting As and Bs this quarter.
"Right now, I won't be graduating until I'm 19 as it is," she said. "But it would have been in my 20s if I flunked the whole year."
Mike Love, a 17-year-old Kenwood sophomore, spent the morning at the port shadowing Angelo Lamartina, a crane mechanic and welder, whose tour include a trip into the cab of one of the massive cranes.
"It was fun," said Mike, who is interested in a career in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning repair and maintenance. He said the tour helped emphasize the importance of on-the-job safety and a background in mechanical skills.
"It was definitely worthwhile," he said.
The mentors said they hoped the tours would help students decide whether they wanted a career at the port, or whether they were looking for something completely different. More importantly, students "get to see what the work world is like," Mr. Lamartina said.
"There's a lot of job opportunities out there, but you need an education to get them, he said."
"I really think it's a great opportunity . . . for students to see what they're going to need when they get out of school," Ms. Carroll said. "We didn't have that opportunity when we were growing up. Things aren't always as rosy as kids are told it is. . . . The only way you're going to get anywhere is hard work."