High schoolers gain experience

Teaching: Firefighting and music are among the careers that students in Howard County's Mentor Program have studied all year.

May 09, 1999|By Ariella Cohen | Ariella Cohen,SUN STAFF

When young children share their firefighting ambitions, adults call them cute and stick little red plastic helmets on their heads. For one Columbia high school senior, the helmet is real. Two months shy of 18, Lavender Boyce has been a certified firefighter for more than a year.

It was almost two years ago that a firefighter friend dragged Boyce to her first 24-hour fire patrol, and Boyce fell in love with firefighting. She quickly found a class and was certified as a firefighter.

By the end of her junior year, Boyce had made the decision to spend the next school year pursuing firefighting and emergency medicine. Howard County's Mentor Program seemed the perfect way to work toward her post-high school ambitions.

The program places students with professionals in their field of interest. They agree to spend a minimum of 5 hours a week with their mentors, just as they would in any academic class, learning through real-life experience.

The year culminates in a project. Students' products ranged from artificial intelligence tools to technical manuals to art and writing portfolios.

On Friday, Boyce and some 40 other Howard County students presented their projects and research to an audience of peers at the annual Student Learning Conference at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in North Laurel.

In the small classrooms at APL where the presentations took place, students listened to their peers lead lessons with titles like "The Other Side of 911" (Boyce's subject) and "The DNA of Houseflies and Greek Messengers."

Hammond junior Chad Clay twirled what looked like a high-tech wand around his head. A melodious musical scale was heard over the giggles of his classmates. Taking the wand, presenter Angie Fraser explained how the hand-sized transmitter, called a Buchla Lightning, makes music.

Her mentorship at Peabody Institute taught Fraser, a Hammond senior, how to program computer-generated compositions. "This year I have learned how technology is transforming music, and through my presentation I wanted to give other students that exposure," she said.

Boyce, clad in full firefighting regalia, opened her presentation by telling students that they should "hoot and holler if they have any questions."

The students remained silent as Boyce described how to extinguish a fire and how a car can be crushed like a "Coke can" in a collision.

School board member Sandra H. French was impressed.

"The conference brings a sense of unity and respect to the county's different schools. Instead of the schools' usual sports-generated rivalry, there is a collaboration of the minds, which is more like the work world," she said.

Three River Hill High School sophomores liked what they saw.

"It's a real difference from the average high school where you see so many slackers and people that just don't care," said one of them, Alison Silber. "You come here and people are so organized and well-spoken. They care."

"If this was all one high school," she added with a mischievous smile, "it would definitely be the best around."

Pub Date: 5/09/99

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