Shadowing in world of work

Help: A state intervention program offers academic and support to county high school students having difficulties. One way is giving the teen-agers a firsthand look at adults on the job.

May 02, 2001|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A group of sophomores and juniors sat in a medical conference room, finishing lunch after spending a busy morning observing adults in careers at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia.

Students had received job information and an employment application from a large Howard County employer, and the hospital was able to meet potential workers nearing employment age.

Susan Z. Bullock, a Wilde Lake High School teacher, asked if anyone saw areas they liked, and some hands went up. Did anyone go to areas and say, "No way - I can't do that?" asked Bullock; again several hands shot up. At the conclusion of the discussion, Charles K. Sullivan II, 16, a junior at Howard High, said his time observing hospital duties was well-spent "to see if you can stomach it."

"Knowing what you don't like is just as important as knowing what you do like," Bullock said.

Shadowing professionals in the work environment allows students to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a career choice, she said.

Bullock, who teaches American government, is the Howard County coordinator for Maryland's Tomorrow, a state intervention program offering academic and personal support to students in grades nine through 12 who experience difficulty succeeding in high school.

Bullock and a facilitator-case manager at each school act as partners for about 200 youths at Atholton, Wilde Lake and Howard high schools who may have attendance, academic or personal problems that can knock them off track in high school.

"These are kids who should be able to make it if they have supports in place," said Bullock. They are "kids that have potential to be successful in high school, but they need a partner."

The morning at Howard County General was enlightening for Kiesha Jones, a junior from Wilde Lake who now knows nursing is not for her because she does not like needles and tubes. She said she likes working with children and might go into teaching.

Students receive assistance with academic, personal and career development issues with an overall goal of ensuring they have a clear plan for life after high school. In addition to last week's job-shadowing day, students participate in summer work experiences, visits to local colleges and seminars with business professionals.

Case managers assist with schoolwork, contact parents and families, schedule students into appropriate classes and provide rewards and incentives for academic success. At times, help consists of arranging tutoring or extra time to complete a test. In other instances, case managers link students with community agencies for assistance with health concerns, counseling or drug treatment.

Often, they provide a shoulder to cry on when a kid is down in the dumps and feels that life is not fair, Bullock said.

Case managers have been creative in providing support when and where it meets student needs. At Atholton High in Columbia, staying after school posed a transportation problem because a sizable portion of the students live more than 10 miles from the school.

Principal Connie Lewis worked with the Seasons Apartments in North Laurel - within walking distance for some students - which opened its clubhouse two days a week three years ago for after-school tutoring. Youngsters have been attending ever since, receiving help in any subject from volunteer teachers, National Honor Society students and Department of Defense employees.

The students attend voluntarily, and many leave with changed attitudes toward school and learning, Atholton case manager Wanda Murray said.

"They come because they know they're going to get help, they know they're going to be encouraged and they know they're going to get the support they need to be successful," she said.

Kiesha echoed Murray's comments from a teen-ager's perspective, saying Maryland's Tomorrow helps students improve grades and boosts confidence.

She said the job-shadowing experience helped her understand that she needs to look for a career that matches her interests, not just a way to earn money.

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