Apprenticeship in the Real World

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Senior projects let students choose their way in the world

By Nadine Fiedler, Caller editor

Every spring, through the senior project program, several Catlin Gabel seniors take advantage of a rare and productive opportunity to get out in the world and gain some real-life experience. They spend time interning for either an entire semester, foregoing two of their classes and working part time, or the whole month of May, working full time and not attending any classes. The senior project gives students a glimpse of life after school before they go to college, allows them to investigate possible careers, builds contacts, and ends their high school years on a positive and confident note. Projects also allow all kinds of learners to take part in a meaningful experience of their own choosing and accept responsibility and accountability for their work. This year, senior projects have taken students to places such as Willamette Aviation, Oregon Trout, shoe and clothing design studios, and OHSU neuroscience and heart research labs. The following are the stories of the four students who spent the past semester on their senior projects.

Marie Perrone ’08

MARIE PERRONE ’08: Legacy Health Systems

Marie Perrone ’08 was inspired to take real-world action by her studies in the environmental science and policy class, and her participation in the school’s Natural Step sustainability exercise. She interned at Legacy Health Systems, where she had served as a volunteer, to help make their hospitals more sustainable and to understand how to organize a large business around eco-friendly practices.

Her work was varied, with real and lasting consequences. Here’s just part of what she accomplished over the semester: she organized a green energy contest, she posted environmental tips on Legacy’s website, she organized a communitysupported agriculture drop-off for Legacy employees, she studied the possibilities for alternative transportation, and she wrote a food policy for the entire system.

“Switching to reusable dishes at Catlin Gabel was difficult; it’s fifty billion times harder at Legacy. I enjoy the challenge. If I can make positive changes at Legacy, Catlin Gabel and other such institutions should be a cinch,” says Marie. “I think I may want to combine environmental work with a medical career path and specialize in the effects of pollution and such on human health. This senior project has helped me to develop a different set of skills, ones that couldn’t have been taught in environmental science class or even within the Catlin Gabel community.”

 

JOSH HALLADAY ’08: Mayoral campaign of Sam Adams

Josh Halladay ’08

As a way of exploring a possible career in politics or lobbying, Josh Halladay ’08 chose to get inside a campaign effort and see what makes it operate. He thought that the Sam Adams Portland mayoral campaign would be a good fit because of its small size and reliance on volunteers.

Josh soon found out about the grinding work of a campaign, the importance of strategy, how the managers devote their lives to the cause, and the astounding amount of minutiae needed to run a good campaign. His internship involved working with a database, preparing lists of possible supporters to call, making calls to potential donors or participants in events, researching and analyzing voter-supported elections, researching sign regulations, and making recommendations for campaign signs.

“The majority of the work I do is simpler than anything I would be doing at Catlin Gabel, but being in a business environment with people who rely on the accuracy of your work is a completely different experience than what you can learn in the classroom,” he says. The campaign was a success, and Josh says he will be proud of all he contributed to it, especially as a high school student.

 

ANNA OSERAN ’08: PDX magazine

Anna Oseran ’08

If you pick up a copy of PDX magazine’s spring issue, you’ll see Anna Oseran’s name all over it. As an editorial intern with no experience in magazine work, Anna wrote pieces for the magazine that ranged from music reviews, to a food and drink event calendar, to a full feature article on five distinctly different places to buy furniture. This senior project is an auspicious start for what Anna hopes will be her college major and her life’s work in journalism.

Anna was eager to take her well-honed writing skills into the real world after learning for years in class what it means to be a good writer. She thrived on her immersion into the world of journalism. “I went into the magazine with my own writing style but learned that I had to adjust it for the readers and the magazine’s style, which is short, to the point, and quick-witted,” says Anna. She also learned about time management and working under a deadline

Anna is happy with her project and encourages other students to take on projects of their own. “I get to talk to people I would not have met before,” she says. “And I get to actually write and not just get people coffee.”

 

NICHOLAS KRISHNAMURTHY ’08: Wells Fargo investment banking division

Nicholas Krishnamurthy ’08

Nicholas Krishnamurthy hoped to learn about investment banking in his senior project and see if it might interest him as a career. Maybe the most valuable discovery of his semester working at Wells Fargo is that investment banking is not the right career for him. He found out that a job that focuses solely on money just doesn’t appeal to him.

Nicholas took the internship seriously and felt like he was going to a real job every day. He conducted a great deal of research, investigating markets, companies, and industries in which Wells Fargo was interested. After his first week on the job he produced a 250-page research report that the head of Wells Fargo Securities took to a high-level meeting. When a new analyst came on the job, Nicholas received the same training as this full-time employee.

Nicholas realized that his position as an intern differentiated him from his co-workers in that he had no financial incentive (or the rush of victory) as they do—but he continued to work hard to impress them. He says about his senior project experience, “Some parts of the job can be boring and tiresome, but others can be incredibly interesting. I’ve been able to learn things about economics that I cannot learn at Catlin Gabel. Basically, I’ve learned more than I could imagine at this job, and I think that it is a very valuable experience, even though I feel a lot like an intern. It’s been great to get out of the classroom, and I would do it again if I had the chance.”

Many thanks to Joan Piper, the faculty mentor of the senior project program, for her help with background for this article. Caller editor Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations.