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The School to Career Partnership Program Going Strong for Marin Public High School Students

“I’ve known a lot of adults who, as kids, spent time and money pursuing a career that they ended up not wanting to do.” Vicky Baker

Does that opening sentence ring a note of truth for you? You might wonder, if you’re a student, how can I end up not doing that? Or if you’re a parent planning to foot the educational bill, you might wonder, OK, how can we NOT DO THAT?

Meet the School to Career Partnership that serves the students of Marin County’s public schools – a great idea that pairs internships and job shadows with curious high school students, normally, but not necessarily, during the summer after their sophomore or junior years.

“I came in knowing that I wanted to do the Santa Rosa Junior College dental hygiene program,” said 18-year old Ashley Brundidge, a recent Novato High graduate. “But observing the dental hygienists made me more confident and want to do it even more. I know it will be a very good path for me.”

Ashley has spent six hours a week for the past six weeks working at the dental offices of Dr. Tyler and Dr. Perry in the San Marin area of Novato under the supervision of office manager Vicky Baker.

“Ashley is great and sweet and excited about being here,” said Baker, who’s seen a number of students participate in the program over a few years. She elaborated:

“It gives the students a chance to see what it’s like in the workplace. From personal experience I’ve known a lot of adults who, as kids, spent time and money pursuing a career that they ended up not wanting to do. It would be great for more kids to have the same opportunity. I think it would help people decide what they want to be when they grow up.”

What’s in it for the dentists, I asked her. “They are both Novato residents and interested in doing things for the community,” she said. Ashley told me, “They (Drs. Tyler and Perry) have great energy, and are so friendly and treat you like family.”

Founded in 1997, the Marin County School to Career Partnership, a project of the Marin Country Office of Education, is administered through business education liaisons like Camille Madfes who works with the public high schools of Novato.

Madfes looks over the student applications and takes them through a screening process to provide the best match for employer and student.

The School to Career Partnership is supported by over 200 Marin County businesses and organizations. Students can choose academic elective credits or community service hours if they’re working for a non-profit.

I asked Madfes, too, why would a company want to bother with this program? “For most of our business partners, it’s their way of giving back to the community. They realize the benefits of working with young people. They’re willing to mentor kids and help them develop new skills.”

California Film Institute’s Development Associate for the Mill Valley Film Festival, Beau Blanchard, takes it a bit further. After recently creating a consistent program with the local school districts providing year-round internships including those with the School to Career Partnership, he said, “We wanted to offer experience in an office environment and with a non-profit arts organization. We’ve had such a terrific group this far, not just bright and motivated, but also in terms of being an asset to what we’re doing. They are so skilled in some of the new medias as we’re moving forward with marketing and development – I’m very impressed. The more that we’ve given them, the more they’ve accomplished.”

Cooper Nelson is one of the 10 students wrapping up their last week interning at the California Film Institute. (As a two-time participant, Cooper interned at the Environmental Council of Marin last summer.) An incoming senior at Novato High, Cooper has devoted eight hours a week - in two four-hour segments - since June 20th. “This is really a great way to experience a career - not in a childish ‘camp’ way - but by being treated as an adult. You learn about the work world through the experience of an actual worker. It’s a great opportunity to explore your options before you have to choose what your true career is going to be.”

Healthcare, like in the case of Ashley above, is the most popular workplace choice. Non-profit organizations, culinary, journalism and architecture are just a few of the other career-learning opportunities offered to students during this award-winning program. (In 2002, the Partnership won a Golden Bell Award presented to outstanding educational programs in Marin County.)

As the last week for this summer’s internship program winds down, a flurry of thank-you note-writing is encouraged and expected up and down the Marin County corridor to the businesses who opened a window into their world. And who knows? Maybe some of those employers will use this opportunity to provide a sugar high to their employees.

But as Ashley would hasten to remind you, don’t forget to floss!

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