Shadowing offers chance to experience real-life work

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

As a way to make Southampton Academy closer, teachers and students in the middle and upper schools were asked to read “The Last Lecture” this past summer. The author of this book, Randy Pausch, had pancreatic cancer.

While giving his last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Professor Randy Pausch was youthful, full of life and cheerful — not at all what is expected of a person with a terminal disease. Though he lost his battle to cancer on July 25, his last lecture has become an inspiration to many people, teaching them to overcome obstacles and to seize every moment in life.

Randy Pausch’s lecture not only connects with those who have dealt with cancer but with anyone who has ever struggled to overcome any obstacle, including the inevitable — death.

As a way to spread his ideas about life and how to achieve our dreams, our school decided to have everyone write down an aspiration on a notecard. They said that our notecards — with our dreams spelled out for all to see — would be put on display on campus.

Naturally, some people didn’t take the task seriously, while others covered their notecard and folded it in half so as not to be seen by their nosy peers.

I sat at my desk, staring at this blank notecard, bewildered. I spent every day dreaming and wondering about my

future, but I couldn’t put any of those dreams into words. They were too personal, too real to just be put on display for anyone to criticize or judge.

As I pressed my pen down onto the card, forcing the ink out of its cartridge before I was ready, I realized that the only sentence that could truly describe my one big dream was this: I want to write something that will have a positive effect on someone’s life.

Being a senior now, I don’t just think of my future as a distant concern, but I’m actually doing work that will affect my future.

I spend my days at school trying to boost my grade-point average as high as I can, my nights filling out applications for colleges, loans, scholarships, grants, and I am always e-mailing a neighbor or a teacher about a letter of recommendation. When I’m not doing that, I am at work, trying to save up a little cash for myself. But these efforts are not in vain. I know that I am actually working for something I want, for something I am finally beginning to get a taste of: a writing career.

Along with all of the other stresses of my senior year, there is just one more to top it off — my senior project. It’s not insurmountable or intimidating; just one more thing to worry about.

We seniors have to complete 25 hours of community service or job-shadowing by the time Christmas break rolls around. Job-shadowing involves following a person who has a career I may be interested in. I get to see what they do at work, the positives and negatives of their job. I get to experience all the fun stuff without having any real responsibility!

Immediately I knew that the best place to see how journalists do their work would be my very own hometown newspaper: The Tidewater News. So I called The Tidewater News and explained what I needed to do. Publisher Steve Stewart and Jena Passut, the managing editor, were very open and willing to let me come in and get my feet wet in the field of journalism.

After a meeting with the two of them, we agreed on a date for me to start. By the end of my second visit, I had done more than just watch. I was allowed to proofread several pages and make suggestions. I learned that finding a mistake on a student English paper is much easier than finding any mistakes made by well-educated adults.

I got to observe how the pages were put together and help choose photographs for the pages. I found out that deadlines were much more important for a job than they were at school.

My intimidation and apprehension about the whole experience quickly diminished. And under the anxiety I found excitement. I was finally able to envision what kind of job I might have one day.

Those dreams that seemed so far past Southampton County’s limits were suddenly within my sight, and I was not disappointed.