A shadow for a day

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, February 23, 2012

Detective Jesse Dickinson of the Washington Police Department explains the purpose of shoe impressions in crime-scene investigations to local high-school students (left to right) Russ Dale, Malik Slade, Antonio Woods, Brandon Young and Guadalupe Villa-Hernandez, while Lt. William Chrismon looks on. The students were taking part in the annual Job Shadow Day in which 10th-graders explore future career options by shadowing professionals during their workday. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Teens explore future job options

Thursday was not quite a normal day for some area teens; it was Job Shadow Day.

Sifting through criminal evidence, studying fingerprints and shoe impressions taken from crime scenes, riding in a patrol car and meeting with the police chief — consider that a normal day for a Washington police officer. For five area teens Thursday, they could be found on the “job,” learning the basics of a possible future career in law enforcement.

Sixty-two Beaufort County Schools’ 10th-graders got a sneak peak at what a career looks like from the inside as they shadowed local professionals for several hours Thursday morning. A collaboration between the Beaufort County Schools, the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and many volunteer professionals, the annual Job Shadow Day gives students an opportunity to explore career interests and potentially help them decide whether that interest deserves further pursuit.

To take part in the event, a student must be recommended by a teacher and his or her guidance counselor before taking a simple test: choose their top three career choices from a list. From there, a committee divvies up the students and goes to work signing on entities like Vidant Beaufort Hospital, the district attorney’s office for the Second Prosecutorial District (which includes Beaufort County) and the Washington Police Department to volunteer time and resources for the project.

“We’ve never had anyone say no,” said Robin McKeithan, the chamber’s business, of hunting down those willing to participate. “The business community goes out of their way to help us.”

Lt. William Chrismon of the Washington Police Department praised the project, saying it “was an awesome experience for kids who don’t know what they want to do when they graduate from high school.”

Chrismon’s shadows for the day, Russ Dale, Malik Slade, Antonio Woods, Brandon Young and Guadalupe Villa-Hernandez, started with a tour of police-department facilities, where they met Chief Mick Reed, then went on to criminal investigations, learning the practical applications of collecting criminal evidence.

According to Slade, the tour of the Beaufort County Detention Center was the most interesting part of the visit.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was until we went there,” said Russ.

A few blocks away, sophomores from Southside High School, Rasheem Shelton, and Northside High School, Callie Cordon, were studying what the executive director of the Beaufort County Arts Council, Joey Toler, does at his job on a daily basis. The two were given a tour of the arts council and the current Civic Center exhibit, then took a walk downtown to the Inner Banks Artisans’ Center, River Walk Gallery and Lone Leaf Gallery, meeting several artists and business owners.

Cordon loves theater, and Shelton loves music, but Toler’s goal was to instill in the two an interest in all things artistic.

“You never know where your basic interest will lead you,” said Toler.

Though Toler’s background is in performing arts, as the arts council’s director, his purview deals predominantly with visual arts. He impressed upon the visiting students how his career in the arts entails many skills he never thought he’d use: writing press releases, dealing with budgets and speaking in public.

Earlier in the day, Ray McKeithan had other workplace considerations to impart at a morning breakfast meeting held for the students at Beaufort County Community College. He covered the basics of business etiquette: how to shake hands, look fellow professionals in the eye, as well as texting and cellphone etiquette. PotashCorp-Aurora, where McKeithan works as manager of public affairs and governmental affairs, sponsored Job Shadow Day.

In addition to those previously mentioned, mentors included the Beaufort County government, Tayloe’s Hospital Pharmacy, Pamlico Animal Hospital, the law firm of Mayo & Mayo, Gregg Ward Photography, Beaufort County Schools, Total Agronomics, National Spinning, Dr. Angie Rhodes, Hillside Funeral Service & Cremations and Beaufort County Community College.

As the mentoring event drew to a close, Chrismon stressed the importance of exposing members of the future work force to their various job options.

“They may look at (a career in law enforcement) and decide it’s not for them,” said Chrismon. “Or, they may realize this is all they want to do for the rest of their life.”

One of Chrismon’s charges, Brandon Young, seemed to have already made up his mind on the matter.

“I definitely want to (be a police officer) when I grow up,” he said.