The inaugural year of a Yorkville High School program that paired students with local businesses was so successful that more than double the number of students have signed up for next year.
The YHS Field Experience Program matches students who have applied with local businesses that match their future career interests. Teacher Melissa Wojowski, the program's coordinator, said 29 students participated in the program this year, and 61 are signed up to participate next school year.
Wojowski said the program helps students experience a taste of a career they're interested in before they head off to college or trade school. The students work five hours a week at the business, and they have a mentor at that business, she said.
Sherri Farley, executive director of the Yorkville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the business owners she's spoken with regarding the program "commented that the most rewarding part was the opportunity to give back in the form of mentorship."
Students must be at least 16 to join the program, Wojowski said. Students can take the program for a second year if they want, but she said they are encouraged to intern with various businesses each semester instead of the same one.
Wojowski said that for some, the program bolstered their enthusiasm for their planned career, for others, it helped them decide to go in a similar direction related to their career goals, and the program also helped some students decide that the career wasn't a good fit for them.
"It gives them a snapshot picture of what it will be like," she said. "And I'll be honest with you, probably 60 percent of them after this first year realized it was something that they didn't want to do or they found something similar within that same realm that they wanted to do."
YHS students Aliyah Hoff, who plans to attend the University of Missouri, and Lily emma Aktabowski, who plans to attend the University of St. Francis in Joliet, said the program helped solidify their plans to major in speech pathology and radiologic technology, respectively.
Hoff said she worked for one semester at Yorkville Intermediate School with Speech Pathologist Traci Anderson and one semester at Circle Center Grade School with Speech Pathologist Lisa McKee.
The intermediate school serves fourth, five, and sixth grade students, while Circle Center serves kindergarten through third grade students.
"It was nice getting the two perspectives of the different schools," Hoff said. "I had an older teacher and a younger teacher and they were very different experiences but I loved them both."
Hoff said she initially observed students and took attendance, but that as the year went on she "got to be more involved with the kids."
"I played games with them and got to know them a little bit better," she said. "And I got to hang out with the kids and observe their testing."
Hoff said her experience reaffirmed her intention of studying speech pathology.
"It was just giving me an idea of, is this the right place for me, do I like working with kids?" she said. "And I loved it."
Aktabowski worked at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora and Rush Copley Emergency Center in Yorkville.
"In Yorkville, we pretty much went through every different department," she said.
Aktabowski said at the Yorkville campus she worked in the business office, lab, radiology, ER and cardiac rehab departments. She said she mostly observed but that she was able to do some hands-on activities in some departments.
She said she shadowed medical students at the Aurora hospital, where the nurses showed them how to check vital signs.
Aktabowski said she was able to speak with X-ray technicians and other radiology staff about her future career choice.
"I was just hoping to make sure that's what I want to do, because I don't want to go to school and then realize, I don't like this at all," she said. "I do like the x-ray tech (job). I don't know if I'll go on to be a doctor; that's a little questionable after seeing what they have to do. But I still like X-ray tech and any radiology."
Aktabowski said that although she works in a nursing home, it was the first time she had worked in a hospital setting.
"I got to see pretty much everything; I didn't know some of that stuff existed," she said.