Students explore future careers in CHS internship program

Real world experiences

Contributed photo Camas High School student Rachel Fadlovich (far right) tests a water sample at the Port of Camas-Washougal during her internship with the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction.

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Matt Palodichuk, Zach Hein and Xinyang Chen helped develop a new software program to streamline product testing time estimates for Underwriters Laboratories. They were assisted by mentor and lead engineer Scott Varner (far right).

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Xinyang Chen, Rachel Fadlovich, Matt Palodichuk, Hailey Pfeifer and Zach Hein (left to right) participated in project-based professional internships over the summer. All said that they enjoyed their experiences and getting a feel for potential future careers.

While some teens were spending their summer kicking back with friends, others were working up to 40 hours per week in professional internships.

These students, from the CHS Math, Science and Technology Magnet program, worked at internships ranging from designing a program at Underwriters Laboratories to spending time in the operating room of a plastic surgeon’s office, to measuring the health of local waterways.

The internship program was spearheaded by CHS Magnet teacher Ron Wright and community volunteer/business organization developer Chad Stewart four years ago, as a way for students to gain real-world experience in potential future careers before going to college.

Students are paired with businesses or experts in various fields and also had mentors.

“It’s a great opportunity to shine and thus get an excellent reference to use in their college applications,” Wright said. “(They have) experience that shows, proof positive, that they can make a positive difference, even at a young age, in the world.”

Kim Newman, a magnet program teacher who helped coordinate the internship program this past summer, added that students were challenged to create solutions to real issues.

“They were given a tremendous opportunity to be a significant part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “We are so thankful that the mentors took so much time out of their already busy schedules to invest in our young people.”

Businesses in the mentor program included Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Hewlett-Packard, the city of Camas, Dull Olsen Weekes Architects, Oregon Health and Science University, Dr. Michael Workman, Camas-Washougal Animal Hospital, West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, The Children’s Village, Dr. Sharma Dentistry, Vancouver Presbyterian Church and Kaiser Permanente.

Seniors Matt Palodichuk, Zach Hein and Xinyang Chen worked at UL with mentor Scott Varner, a lead engineer, to develop a program which streamlined product testing times.

“Different engineers would have estimates about how much time a product verification would take, so we used the program Microsoft Infopath to create a quoting device,” Palodichuk said. “We pretty much started the first day, after an orientation on how to use the software. I’m so used to a school environment, where the teacher is telling you what to do. There, we connected with each other and helped to develop a program that fitted their needs.”

The group worked 20 hours a week for two months, and attended a class once a week.

“The biggest thing I learned is that school teaches you stuff, but there is not much of a chance to apply it,” Hein said. “This internship was based on how quickly you could pick up new skills and use your past experience and logic to determine what to do.”

The most exciting part of the internship was when the teens presented their program to the board of directors for the UL sales department.

“It turns out this product might have a bigger impact than we expected,” Hein said.

Palodichuk added, “It felt like the real thing when we were presenting it to the board. It was very nerve wracking, and no comparison to any presentation I’ve done in school, although the Magnet Program symposiums we’ve presented at really helped prepare us well for that moment.”

Chen, who wants to pursue a career in “something math or science related,” enjoyed the internship experience, and getting the opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at UL.

“I felt that it was useful having them show us what they did,” he said. “They knew their goal and worked toward it.”

Palodichuk added that it opened his mind to different engineering careers.

“I now have the knowledge of what a computer engineer needs to know,” he said. “I know the job atmosphere and possibilities.”

Added Hein, “It was really cool seeing them reason with each other.”

Senior Hailey Pfeifer worked in the office of a Vancouver plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Workman. She spent time watching procedures in the operating room and conducting a research project. The work entailed testing whether it was more effective to show patients how to use a spirometer, which records the amount of air inhaled and exhaled by the lungs, before or after surgery.

Pfeifer worked approximately 90 hours. Her mentor was Rainy Ring.

“I loved it and working with her,” she said. “It was cool to see all the behind scenes stuff at the office. Just being there and seeing everything that goes on during surgery was interesting.”

She has wanted to be a plastic surgeon since the third-grade, when she did a fundraiser for the Smile Train, an international charity that provides surgery to repair cleft palates to children in need.

“I really think this would be an ideal job for me and interning there just made me more excited for it,” Pfeifer said.

Senior Rachel Fadlovich worked for OHSU’s Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. The research center monitors the health of the Lower Columbia River Basin Watershed.

Fadlovich worked in a lab-controlled experiment to study the effects of BPA on phytoplankton. She also measured oxygen levels in local waterways.

She worked 40 hours a week in Hillsboro and commuted on the MAX train for an hour each way, every day.

“I really enjoyed being a part of a research lab and seeing how everyone interacted,” Fadlovich said. “I noticed that everyone used their strengths to help each other. It was also really interesting to see how different their projects were.”

Fadlovich, 16, was the youngest intern there. Most of the others were graduate students preparing for dissertations. The work was challenging, but she enjoyed it.

“When I told them I was 16, they were all really surprised,” she said. “Everyone was very interesting and I got along with them really well.”

After giving a presentation about her findings, Fadlovich recalled being pulled aside by the head of the CMOP program.“She told me I sounded like a tenured professor,” she said. “I have always enjoyed science and now I think I would like to teach at the undergraduate level.”

Helping students apply their knowledge to the “real world,” is a big part of what the internship program is all about.

“Every one of them met their challenge and gained a healthy sense of pride,” Newman said.