Working toward the future
Kevin Beerman, a senior at Heidelberg High School, listens to Richard Simmons, a physical therapist at Heidelberg Health Center, as he explains therapy options to a patient. Beerman works at the health center as a physical therapy assistant as part of the Career Practicum Work Study Program.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- High school students have been roaming around the Heidelberg community during school hours - and no, they're not skipping.

These students are part of the Heidelberg High School Career Practicum Work Study Program and serve as interns at various locations throughout the community.

The Heidelberg Health Center hosts eight students, including Kevin Beerman and Chris Wilhelm, who work as physical therapy assistants.

"We get out the equipment, observe therapy programs, and learn the therapy exercises," said Beerman, 17, who is a senior this year.

The two agreed they enjoy their time at the Health Center. "There isn't a lot of stress, and it's very easy to learn," said Wilhelm, also a senior.

Beerman said it has helped to prepare him for his future. "This is what I want to study in college. This job has been a great experience, and I would recommend it to younger students."

Beerman and Wilhelm's supervisor, Maj. Jason Silvernail, chief of physical therapy, said he was excited to take part in the program. "There is a lot of student interest in this field, and if they are willing to learn, I am happy to teach," Silvernail said.

One tricky part of the career practicum program can be the grading. "I grade the kids on their ability to absorb the information, and their interest in the field," Silvernail said.

Amanda Huffmyer, a senior, is an assistant in the Same-Day Surgery Unit. Huffmyer's day is full of experiences foreign to many who don't have medical degrees. "I spend a lot of time observing the different surgeries and procedures, and taking people's vitals, I don't plan on studying this in college, but I still think it's very interesting."

Capt. Priesto Corujo Yurena, a resident nurse at the Health Center, is Huffmyer's supervisor. "The career practicum program has gone on for a long time here," Yurena said. "It's my first year doing it, and I would be happy to continue doing it as long as the program is offered."

Capt. "PC" finds that it is sometimes hard to give the kids things to do because there are many parts of the job on that the kids cannot handle, "but we still teach them as much as we can about doing charts and taking vitals," she said.

Mary Alice Clark, senior, who plans to study medicine in the future, is an assistant in the Pediatrics Unit. "I tend to follow the doctors around and watch them diagnose the patients. This has given me a real look into what my job would be like."

These are all non-paid internships, but the pay comes in the experience the students are given in the different careers in which they are interested.

This program is created for seniors and juniors, but with the many seniors wanting to participate, not many juniors are included in the program. If students attending Heidelberg High School want to be part of this program when they are a senior, they should take required courses early, to have free periods their senior year. Juniors who have taken courses in middle school will also have this option junior year. It's easy to find a job.

Students should keep their eyes open in the community, and when they find something interesting, keep it in mind for career practicum, said Emily Gourdine, Career Practicum coordinator, who works to place students in all positions.

Gourdine runs the program, which has been around for 16 years. Heidelberg has the second largest program in Europe with 65 students.

"I was a guidance counselor for 25 years, and I wanted a change. That's why I wanted to coordinate this program, and I will continue to do it as long as I'm still enjoying it," she said.

Gourdine's job may seem easy, because when the kids are gone at their work site she has no students, but this definitely is not the case. Gourdine coordinates the students' transportation to and from their jobs, goes to the work sites and observes the students, and monitors the kids' time cards.

Some parents wonder about the importance of career practicum and how colleges view its value, "I believe this class is important because it really prepares the students for their future jobs," Gourdine said. "If the students find out that they don't like the job, or that they want to continue in that area, the program has been successful for them."

"Colleges view this program in a very good light," according to Gourdine. "Most consider it as a volunteer experience and a practical working experience or an internship, which look great on college applications."

The career practicum students are prepared for their jobs by taking classes related to their job sites during high school. Before picking job sites at the beginning of the year, students learn how to dress for their jobs, develop resumes, and be a great interviewee.

The Health Center is only one option for the career practicum program. Others include the veterinary clinic, the dining facilities, elementary schools and more. Other locations will be featured in the coming weeks.

(Editor's note: Colleen Mattingly works at the Herald Post as part of the Career Practicum Work Study Program.)

Page last updated Wed February 11th, 2009 at 07:57