Job Shadowing program teaches students real life skills

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

The Larry Summers Vocational Center is helping students pave a way to future careers with its Job Shadowing program.

The program, which started in the early 1990s under the guidance of Dr. Elouise Upchurch, is still going strong, with 27 students shadowing a variety of career fields in the month of November.

Christy Cader, vocational counselor, said that the job shadowing program is for students who are in their second year of vocational courses at the center.

"The Job Shadowing program is designed to give students a closer look at their chosen career, and assist them with their future career decisions," Cader said. "Studies have shown that students who participate in job shadowing programs have greater success in earning a high school diploma, obtaining employment during school years, and obtaining a college degree."

Cader added that the program would not be possible if not for the support of local businesses who invest their time in Yazoo City's young people.

The list of this year's community supporters include Attorney Betsy Cotton, the Yazoo City Fire Department, Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ace Hardware, Dr. Emily Burton and staff at Family Dental Clinic, Dr. Tracy Paul and staff at Paul Family Dentistry, Mr. George R. Saxton, MAP Headstart, Baptist Fitness Center, Dr. Corey Jones and staff at Yazoo City Animal Hospital, Cotton's Auto Repair, Mr. Ike Haynes and the Staff at Yazoo City High School, Mrs. Carolyn Johnson and staff at Yazoo Gifted Academy, Mr. Elbert Smith and staff at Woolfolk Middle School, Dr. Richard Chano and staff at McCoy Elementary School, Mr. Phil Turner and staff at Yazoo County High School.

Cader said that there is a process that students must follow before they can shadow in a potential career setting.

"They have a packet that they take home to be signed, because we must have permission before I make the assignment," she said.

Once the students have permission from their parent or guardian to participate in the program, they must choose three options or careers they are interested in shadowing.

"I also tell them that if they know a specific person that they want to shadow, to give me that person's name and number and I will make contact with that person," Cader said.

Sederick Allen, a student in his second year studying health sciences, has a goal of becoming a Dentist and requested to shadow Dr. Emily Burton at Family Dental Clinic.

"It was a great experience," he said. "She made it very clear that it was a hard field and that it was a lot of responsibility.  The experience was very eye-opening but it's still something that I want to do."

 Allen said that part of his experience included observing Dr. Burton as she operated on patients, overcoming his fear of needles, and discussing the business side of owning a private dental clinic.

"I want to be my own boss so that is something that I really want to do," he said. "It's going to be hard, but I am not expecting to go into a field where it's going to be breeze."

Allen said that he later left his job shadowing experience feeling more prepared for the career he had chosen, and that Dr. Burton also encouraged him to contact her if he had any more questions about the field in the future.

"Our businesses in this community are really great about working with these students and being willing to take them in, let them stay for the day, and sit down with them and tell them what they do and answer their questions." She said.  "You can tell the students about a career, but until they go into an office and spend the day with that person, there's no experience like it."

Cader added that job shadowing can also help students see that they may not be suited to a particular field after all.

"I will have kids that come back and say they didn't like a career, and that is just as valuable," she said.

Cader said that while most of the students are gaining experience in many different career fields around Yazoo City, they are most in need of shadowing opportunities in the medical field where students can follow local doctors and nurses.

Cader said that she will work with any local business or organization who wants to host student on job shadowing day.

"Just be open-minded when we call and ask about a placement," she said.

For more information about the Larry Summer Vocational Center, or about their Job Shadowing program, please call 662-746-7642.