Importance of education emphasized on National Groundhog Job Shadow Day; Pupils follow adults through day of work


Putting a new spin on Groundhog Day, thousands of Maryland pupils left their classrooms yesterday to shadow workers in jobs ranging from industrial spring manufacturing to television production.

They saw reverse thrusters being built at Middle River Aircraft Systems, followed doctors at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and visited shops in White Marsh -- all part of the second National Groundhog Job Shadow Day, designed to reinforce the importance of education.

"It is critical to have qualified employees for economic development, and we need to help students prepare early on for careers," said John Wasilisin, Baltimore County's administrative officer. "Hopefully, some will find jobs that interest them, but there's nothing wrong with finding out what you don't want to do, either."

For some Booker T. Washington Middle School pupils in Baltimore, the day was as much about mentoring by African-Americans as a chance to learn about workplaces.

"I sat in the seats they are sitting in," said James Hamlin, the United Parcel Service's Atlantic District community relations manager, who helped organize visits for 200 of the school's pupils at area businesses.

UPS sales representative Christopher Richardson took eighth-grader Anthony Shields on a sales call to American Credit Indemnity, a Fortune 500 company with offices in Baltimore. During the ride downtown, the two traversed decades and continents as Richardson talked sports and described the gold in a German castle he had visited.

Clear message

The message was clear and direct: Stay off the street and get an education.

"The only thing in the streets is death and jail and those aren't retirement plans," Richardson said. "When I was 27, I went to 13 funerals.

"What are you doing to prepare yourself? The first thing is stay in school," Richardson said.

It was a message reiterated by Alonzo Griffin, a manager of corporate administration at American Credit who graduated from Carver Vocational-Technical. "It used to be who you know. Now it is whether you have that piece of paper," Griffin said.

Anthony, who wants to be a lawyer, said he will attend Carver next fall. Richardson and Griffin gave the 14-year-old their phone numbers.

Richardson told Anthony if he raised his grades next semester he would take him to baseball games or go fishing or camping.

Educators expected more than 3,000 Maryland pupils to participate in yesterday's event, which was sponsored by the State Department of Education, the state's Career Connections program, Junior Achievement, the American Society of Association Executives and Colin Powell's America's Promise organization.

Pupils said yesterday was far different from "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," the nation's other large, organized day of pupils visiting jobs.

"We're learning more about what's going on, not just spending the day with our parents," said Loch Raven High School sophomore Tiffany Yep, 15, who followed Wasilisin, the county administrative officer.

Matched to interests

Teachers tried to match pupils to their interests. Perry Hall High School freshman Sajjad Husain spent the day following an executive at Kirk-Habicht Co., an Essex spring manufacturer.

"I like leadership and I like science, so following the president of the company will teach me a lot," Sajjad said.

At Middle River Aircraft Systems, 30 students from nearby Kenwood High School spent the day seeing workers in manufacturing, engineering and marketing.

"We can tell them the exact same thing as their teachers about how to prepare for their future, but when we say it, they'll often listen more closely," said Jim Smith, manager of customer support at the company who also teaches Junior Achievement classes at Kenwood. "We want them to see what opportunities are out there if they stay through high school and what they can do if they go to college."

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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