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Program Offers Job Experience, Pay for High Schoolers

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At the start of the school year, Aelina Pogosian could not wait to tell her friends about the most interesting thing she had done over the summer.

The 16-year-old did not want to talk about a trip she took somewhere. She wanted to talk about a paid internship that she had at a biology laboratory at Montgomery College in Maryland.

The internship was made possible by the RISE program, which gives real job experience to high school students in Montgomery County.

“A lot of the materials and machinery we used is not given at most high schools,” Pogosian said. She added, “I got to learn a lot at the same time I was able to have a lot of fun. And I met some new people.”

Jennifer Sengbusch is the Instructional Lab Coordinator who worked with Pogosian. She said her first task is to teach the high schoolers about safety rules to avoid injury.

She said, “We also went through working with chemicals, making solutions, doing calculations. Then we progressed into doing more complicated things (such) as measuring protein concentrations and doing DNA tests.”

The internship was not just about tests in the laboratory. There also was training in how to take care of animals, such as snakes and tortoises, kept in the lab.

RISE program gives real job experience

More than 400 students from Montgomery County’s 25 high schools took part in the RISE program.

RISE stands for Real Interesting Summer Experience. The “experiences” may be at construction companies, police stations, marketing companies, fire stations and other places. More than 140 businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations hosted students for paid internships.

Will Jawando, a local activist, is the program's director. He says RISE has two main goals: “The first goal is to expose our students to career opportunities early on so they can inform their education or training after high school.”

The second goal is improving the local economy.

“We said there's 30,000 middle-skill level jobs here in Montgomery County that are not filled. So how do we also expose them to that there's jobs here in the county that they could be doing in a year or two that pay well and are on career track.”

He said the program does not only benefits the students. It can also help the county and the region. If students involved in the program stay in the area after graduating from high school, they can become productive citizens.

Local government supports the program

The program received some support from the Montgomery County Council. Councilman Craig Rice helped provide some of the money.

Rice said that, while government often pays attention to immediate needs like roads and building, the RISE program provides for future generations. He said spending money on young people is a way to show that government is serious about being competitive in the world.

Sengbusch said RISE gave her the chance to work with high school student who might apply to Montgomery College. She described the students as curious and eager to learn.

She said high schoolers might be more “inquisitive” than college students. She said, “The high school students really ask a lot of great questions.'

Pogosian, she said, was engaged and always on time. She noted that she was surprised to learn that the 16-year-old arrived an hour early just to make sure she would be on time, saying ‘I just didn’t want to be late.’

Organizers say the RISE program had a successful summer in 2017. They want to expand the program next year. They also hope that other counties in the area will offer similar Real Interesting Summer Experiences for their students.

I’m Anna Mateo. And I'm Ashley Thompson.

Faisa Elmasry reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

calculations –n. the process of using math to find an answer

internships –n. a position meant to give a young person experience in doing a job

career –n. a job or profession that someone does over a long time

benefit –v. to cause a good result

curious –adj. having an interest in find out new things

eager –adj. being excited and interested to do something

inquisitive –adj. having many questions, interested in finding out more

engaged –adj. involved in something deeply

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