Monday, October 16, 2000

Internships connect present, future for teens

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Seventeen-year-old Josh Burlile spends his afternoons at Middletown Regional Hospital's endoscopy center checking blood pressure and hooking up people to heart monitors.

        He watches doctors perform endoscopies and colonoscopies.

        Josh is not in medical school; he's in high school — one of a growing number of students who are pursuing career development opportunities before college.

        It's part of a national trend, said Dr. Mark Pope, past president of the National Career Development Association and an associate professor of counseling at the University of Missouri— St. Louis.

        “This has really helped me,” said Josh, a senior at Lebanon High. “This is something I'm really going to pursue.”

        The drive is to betterprepare students through direct experience in the field, he said.

        “Especially within the last five years there's a push in schools to be more focused on careers,” Dr. Pope said. "Now we're getting to the point that we're doing it right."

        In 1992, the U.S. Department of Labor issued the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. Known as the SCANS report, it recommended numerous changes to make school curricula and teaching methods more relevant to the workplace.

        Then in 1994, Congress created the School-To-Work Opportunities Act, establishing a national framework for the development of School-to-Work Opportunities systems (career awareness, and career exploration and counseling) in all states, starting no later than the seventh grade.

        Those ideas — originating

        with demands from the business community for prepared workers — are trickling down to school counseling organizations, school counselors and subsequently students, said Linda Kobylarz, a career development consultant and professional development chair for the National Career Development Association.

        The admissions office at Xavier University and the Career Development Center at the College of Mount St. Joseph — both selective schools accustomed to fattened college applications — are saying they don't yet see many high-school applicants with career-based internships.

        But some Tristate students are catching on to the trend.

        Josh, a senior, is interning through Lebanon High and the Warren County Career Center. Ten students — all college-bound — from four area schools had to go through an interview process to be accepted to the internship program, said Juli King,facilitator coordinator of the preprofessional internship experience.

        The students spend some time preparing, then participate in two six-week-long internships in fields they want to pursue. They get high-school credit for taking the course but are not paid. They also have to develop portfolios and conduct presentations on their experiences.

        “Many students invest a lot of money in college and see that career is not what they want,” Ms. King said. “This is a way to see in actuality what it is.”

        In just a few weeks, Josh has already seen a slice of what life's like in an endoscopy center. Dressed in aqua scrubs, he stands by the nurses and doctors daily as they examine patients.

        Josh hasn't fainted yet. Instead, he's decided on a career in medicine.

        After his stint at Middletown Regional, he'll go to Southview Hospital in Dayton, where he'll observe in the maternity ward and also follow an anesthesiologist.

        Josh hopes the internship will help him get accepted to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, a college with an annual tuition of about $20,000 for undergraduate and $32,000 for the medical school, not including room and board.

        At that price, Josh said, he can't afford to make the wrong decision.

Opportunities abound
               The more career development, the more tools a student has to make job decisions that may affect their earning power and even happiness for the rest of their lives, career counselors say.

        “Years ago you only saw this in the vocational schools,” said Pat Huston, communications consultant for the Ohio Department of Education. “Now lots of schools are implementing it because they see the benefits.”

        The greatest attrition for college students is during or at the end of the freshman year. Some are overwhelmed; other can't afford college; others are just unfocused.

        Schools such as Maineville Elementary in Warren County are combating the college freshman drop-off through career programs that start as early as kindergarten.

        Warren County Career Education Center's internship program also helps kids make decisions that may guide their futures.

        It's somewhat different from more traditional internship programs such as that at Campbell County Schools, where co-op students work nine to 40 hours a week in nursing homes, medical laboratories, electronics stores, grocery stores and other venues.

        While most of the students are college-bound, the jobs are not necessarily ones the kids are interested in pursuing professionally.

        Fifth Third Bank offers internships for high schoolers who may or may not decide to go to college to help them decide if the field interests them, spokeswoman Robbie Jennings said.

        Sometimes students try out the field and learn that they don't want to make it a career. And that's a good thing, career counselors say.

        Kings High School senior Ashley Oltman did her six-week internship working for a Web page design company and enjoyed the experience but now knows Web page design isn't for her.

        “Now I'm ahead of the game compared to most people,” she said.

        Making the decision now, she said, is better than waiting for college and choosing the wrong major.


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