Mentorships give students a sneak peek at their futures Hammond, Hebron participants work with professionals for hands-on learning HOWARD COUNTY EDUCATION

December 28, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Sixteen-year-old Kristina Zavage draws blood from animals and helps restrain them when they are unruly with veterinarians.

Alicia Paul, 16, wades in water to collect samples in Columbia's 23 ponds. And Randy Bishop, 17, works in the National Security Agency's chief scientist office, logging statistics and learning logistics.

They are three of 37 Hammond High School students in the school's mentorship program, which allows them to go into the community and work with professionals in the fields of their choice. They take classes in the morning and spend the afternoon at their workplaces, doing independent research and observing how mentors do their jobs.

"It gives you the opportunity to explore a field that you're interested in," said Randy, a senior. "It gives you hands-on experience in what you like before you go to college."

While Randy is not sure whether he wants to go into math after working at the NSA. Kristina is definite about pursuing veterinary medicine.

"I like working with animals, but it's hard to deal with the death of animals," she said. "I'm trying to overcome a weak stomach."

Susan Mascaro, who coordinates the Hammond program, said the program "gives students a look at what they like, but it's also a gifted and talented program, so they still have to do research."

More than 160 students participate in similar high school programs throughout the county, but only Hammond and Mount Hebron have teachers who coordinate the program directly from their schools. Thomas Payne, a resource teacher for gifted and talented students, coordinates the other six schools' program from the central office.

"The idea is the student not shadow that person, but to develop a knowledge base and to do a long-term research investigation," he said. "I think this program is going to be more and more important as time goes by. We're looking for students to demonstrate what they know instead of regurgitate what they know. This program allows them to directly apply what they learn."

The hot professions this year were pediatrics and veterinary medicine, he said.

"Some students have been working with attorneys, and they've discovered working with an attorney is not like working on 'L.A. Law,' " he said. "It can be boring. Students get this experience before they go to college.

At Mount Hebron High School, where 17 students are involved in the mentorship program, one teen-ager is designing her own fashion line, and three others are choreographing a dance concert to be held in the spring. Another Hebron student is working with a child psychologist to study how parents and teachers can learn about children's behavior by looking at their drawings.

Sara Parrott, coordinator at Mount Hebron, praises the program.

"It gives them some sense of what's involved in the career they're contemplating," she said. "It gives them real life application in what they're learning. It's very motivating because it lets them take charge of their own learning and therefore lets them design their own goals so they have complete control of what they're doing."

But the program is not for everyone. "There are a lot of people who aren't self-motivated and need help every single day and every step of the way," said 16-year-old Wendy Williams, who is working on organizing a German Culture Day at her school. "They need structure."

Said Mrs. Mascaro: "They're used to a teacher-led environment. Some students have trouble working independently."

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