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Speakers give ideas for future

April 20, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Amanda Burgert, an eighth-grader at James Buchanan Middle School, learned a hard lesson about the real world when her class visited Hennessy Products in Chambersburg, Pa., this month.

"If you miss one day they fire you," said Burgert. That was her interpretation of the company's rules governing new employees still on probation.

Burgert visited the plant with 13 classmates as part of the school-to-work program run by Donna Overcash. The program opened in 1991 to fill in an eighth-grade study period. Administrators decided to fill in the students' time with speakers from the community.

The job of coordinating the program went to Overcash. It's her job to find people willing to speak to five consecutive eighth-grade classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A different speaker comes in every day.

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"This program works because Donna puts in a lot of effort to make the connections. It also tells of the generous commitment to education this community offers us," said Principal Charles Rahauser.

Speakers have included a company president, a judge, a college basketball coach, dancers, a war veteran, a nurse, a retired physician and a social worker. Other visitors included a truck driver, a man who raises reptiles, a prison guard, a game warden, a U.S. Marine who guarded Camp David, a funeral director, a forester, a 911 dispatcher, an antique bottle collector and a fly fisherman.

"You name it and they've been here," she said.

Some are parents of students who volunteer their time.

"So far, no one has turned me down. Some people give up vacation to come in," Overcash said.

"It's important to expose students to these things. Most don't know what their parents do for a living. They get to learn about what's out there and what skills they'll need to follow for a career. It also helps them to choose their high school curriculum," Overcash said.

This year she expanded the program with a $500 grant she uses to drive the students to workplaces in a school van.

She lined up 10 trips, including ones to Hennessy Products and Mt. Parnell Fisheries, a goldfish farm in Fort Loudon, Pa. Next week they'll witness an operation at a local veterinarian's office. Also scheduled are visits to a construction company, a trucking terminal and Waynesboro Hospital.

Danielle Noel, 14, who said she wants to become a marine biologist, liked the goldfish farm best. She saw how fish are raised and cared for and learned the importance of water conditions.

She also learned that the farm has a marine biologist among its employees and that it hires high school students to work in the summer.

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