Students explore potential career fields in internships

June 07, 1999

Kristen EvansBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

A pain in Kristen Evans' heel made her want to explore radiology.

When she was in the third grade, Evans walked up a set of stairs and stepped on a needle. Eye first, it slipped into her foot and left no puncture wound.

For three months, she didn't know what had happened. But a thin line on photographic film solved the mystery, and Evans was fascinated.

"I was really turned on to X-ray because of that," she said. "I just thought it was so neat that you could see into someone's body."


Now a 17-year-old student at North Hagerstown High School, Evans got first-hand experience at the Washington County Hospital Radiology Department.

She is one of 75 seniors who participated this year in the school system's Community Internship Program, which has enrolled more than 1,100 students since its inception in 1978.

"It's amazing what they get to see," said Richard Munch, an internship specialist who has headed the program since 1993.

Students spent as much as half a day every week in diverse workplaces - from aviation management to veterinary science. They observed the architect at the drafting table or stood beside a doctor in surgery.

Munch said internships help students determine whether a career in a certain field is really what they want. "If they can discover that now, it saves a lot of time and college dollars, too," he said.

Evans, for example, found she didn't want to pursue radiology. One morning she witnessed an angiogram, a procedure that involves injecting a substance into a body for an X-ray.

The sight of blood affected her. "The room started spinning, and I kind of blacked out," she said. "I think I found I was more sensitive."

She decided she did not want the stress of discovering tumors or other ailments. "I don't think I could live with that every day," she said.

Instead, she plans to study mathematics and business.

South Hagerstown High School senior Drew Arnett found he enjoyed forensic science. Working with the Western Maryland Regional Crime Laboratory, he analyzed drugs and DNA samples and looked for fingerprints invisible to the naked eye.

The 17-year-old also visited the scene of a crime and made an impression of pry marks on a door. Arnett plans to study biology and enter a forensics career.

"It's really great to meet different students and see what their perspectives are," said Jeff Kercheval, the forensics chemist who served as Arnett's mentor.

"I really find it a blessing to experience these students," said Hagerstown City Staff Engineer Edward Norman, who mentored two seniors. "They are fairly enthusiastic about what they see and hear."

The program is limited to students who excel in academics and other areas of talent. Generally, applicants must have a grade point average of at least 3.7 or a combined score of 110 on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Munch invites eligible juniors to apply and puts together a selection matrix - a combination of transcript, test scores, teacher recommendations and assessments. Munch also conducts one-on-one interviews.

"It takes a very mature senior to have a successful internship," he said. The program has grown steadily and he expects 100 to 110 students to participate next year, he said. "It's a super experience."

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