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Upward Bound students get their feet wet

Clarissa Ceffalo and Stormie Tuggle • Jun 23, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Every kid dreams of what they want to be when they grow up –– artist, scientist, comedian, surgeon –– but few ever get a realistic idea of what their dream job is like until they’re in college.

Upward Bound, an academic program that helps high school students plan for college and their future careers, prepares students for campus life at East Tennessee State University while also introducing them to classes they will be taking their upcoming year of high school.

In the mornings, students attend classes in math, science, English and a foreign language, but after lunch the rising seniors break from the underclassmen and go to work as interns at their career work-study placement.

Career work-study gives students a sneak peak into a profession of their interest, and at the end of the summer they get a stipend of $500 for completing the career work-study requirements, including a time log and daily work journal, thanks to a donation from Ramona Williams and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

During the students’ junior year of high school, they are given an opportunity to write down their top three career choices. This summer, Kim Oaks-Blair, interim assistant director of operations and counseling, and Ali Williams, educational advisor, have placed about 50 students at different work sites around the Tri-Cities.

Students are placed at sites such as Johnson City Medical Center and the Gray Fossil Site.

Oaks-Blair and Williams thoroughly enjoy their jobs and are just as enthusiastic as the students are about their placements.

“I love my job. I couldn’t ask for a better one,” Oaks-Blair said. “My favorite part of the summer is hearing how everyone’s day at their work site went. It makes me happy to know the kids all love where we placed them.”

The duo met with local employers about potential internships for Upward Bound students. Many supervisors were eager to have a fresh batch of students from the program back for another summer.

Robin Crumley, chief professional officer of the Johnson City/Washington County Boys & Girls Club, said this will be her first time hosting Upward Bound interns.

She said she interviewed her two interns, Taylor Berry and Josh Hyder, beforehand to make sure they knew what was expected of them and confirm she found a good fit.

Crumley said, “So far, so good,” about her interns working but wishes they had a training program ahead of time, instead of “throwing them to the wolves.”

Crumley would happily accept more Upward Bound interns in the future and would hire Berry and Hyder if there were openings.

The career work-study program has had positive feedback from all students in every work field.

“I realize that this is what I want to do,” said Toya Jemes, an intern for Century 21 Pro Service Realtors. “One day, I’ll be selling you a house.”

Physical Therapy Service P.A. intern Victoria Price said, “This job has been touching. I’ve learned to be thankful for everything I have.”

Price also said not only is she practicing her future career but she’s also gaining insight to classes she has to take in college.

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