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Job shadowing engages high schoolers

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Emily K. Thompson sat in the back of Samaritan Medical Center’s Biomedical Engineering Department looking at sound waves on the computer. A broken slide dryer sat on a table nearby with a work order for her to fix it by the end of the day.

She is a junior at Sackets Harbor Central School but had the opportunity to learn more about becoming an engineer through the district’s job-shadowing program.

“I know I’m interested in engineering, but I didn’t know what type,” she said. “I’ve been able to have hands-on experience and learn a lot.”

Sackets Harbor requires all juniors and seniors to participate as a part of their English requirement. Although these programs are limited, the district is not the only one in the region that has opportunities beyond vocational classes at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services to help guide students toward — or away from — occupations they have chosen.

Indian River Central School District also requires students to shadow in a field they are interested in through the school-to-work program.

“Many high school seniors have an idea of what career they want to pursue. However, most of their knowledge is based solely on what they have read or researched. Several students lack the firsthand experience within that field,” said Suanne M. Slate, Indian River High School business teacher and school-to-work coordinator.

Sackets Harbor shares many of the same sentiments about why this program is required for upperclassmen.

“It’s a positive experience,”said Sackets Harbor guidance counselor Ryan F. Tastor. “It’s an experience I hope sticks with them as they pick out a major in college.”

Indian River also has been doing “career chats” after school by inviting professionals to talk to students about their responsibilities on the job. During a recent school board meeting, Principal Troy W. Decker said the chats were well attended and will continue next year.

While school districts do not have programs required for graduation, several offer opportunities either through a class or through “educational absences.”

Alexandria Central hired Hearts for Youth Program Director Gayle E. Hunneyman to guide kindergarten through grade 12 services that include mentoring, healthy lifestyle outreach and job shadowing. The program has been running for a decade.

“That’s an educational excuse for at the school,” said Mrs. Hunneyman. “It’s really a nice program for kids who really don’t have an idea of what they want to do.”

In Canton, Hugh C. Williams High School government teacher Bernardino T. Fiacco requires all his students to volunteer at nonprofit or government agencies. He said it has not only helped students learn better in the classroom, but it also has guided students who do know the direction they want to go in after graduation.

“I help them gain a valuable experience in an area that is an interest to them,” he said. “I’ve had students who received scholarships at colleges for their volunteer work. Some have gained tremendous experience and gone into careers based on the program.”

According to Copenhagen Central business teacher Patricia L. Jolliff, a student decided to become a pilot thanks to a shadowing experience a few years ago. He had his pilot license before he went to the prom.

The district’s program has scattered enrollment because of transportation issues or “some kids want nothing to do with it,” but she said it is well advertised at the beginning of the year.

“It’s a win-win all the way around,” she said. “Either they find out they hate it and they don’t pursue it anymore or they love it and they win that way.”

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