Stacy Farrar spent months planning Thursday’s 20th annual Career Partnership Day at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, lining up area businesses willing to host students for a day and give them a chance to learn about the working world.
It was so much time and effort that the Farrar, B-CC’s internship coordinator, began to question whether the event was worth the trouble. But her doubts disappeared after she spoke with a couple of B-CC students who were thrilled about what they’d learned during their day outside the classroom.
“Based on their comments alone, I decide it was worth every second of my time,” Farrar said. “It was just fantastic.”
Once again, the Career Partnership Day, co-sponsored by the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, proved to be a successful opportunity for juniors and seniors to leave the classroom and explore future careers options by observing professionals in action.
It was an experience that’s not to be missed, according to several of the 134 students who visited 42 businesses, organizations and government agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., to EuroMotorcars in Bethesda.
“It is a great opportunity that you get to see the application of what you learn in school in the workplace,” said senior Erin Walk, who visited the test labs at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in Rockville. “There’s no way to know just sitting in the classroom.”
Walk, who’s thinking of becoming an engineer, said she enjoyed talking with the commission’s experts and learning of the different job opportunities that are available.
Junior Amanda Cohen also witnessed the real-life application of lessons from an Advanced Placement government class as she shadowed the staff of County Council member Nancy Floreen through a day of meetings and even spent a few minutes talking with Floreen.
During lunch, County Council staffers talked with students about how they ended up in politics. Cohen said she learned that “there’s not one way to get into government and there’s so many options” of how to go about it.
Discussions about career paths turned out to offer some of the day’s biggest lessons. Students said they found it fascinating to hear about the work histories of the professionals they visited and to find out how they ended up in their current jobs.
“All the people that I talked to, you could tell that they genuinely loved what they did,” said senior Alex Tatem, who spent the day with the Bethesda Urban Partnership, a nonprofit organization that manages and promotes Bethesda. “It was interesting to see everyone’s perspective on how they got where they are.”
Tatem is interested in learning about marketing and how to grow his fledgling DJ business. That’s why he’s spending half of his school day working at an internship at LivingSocial in D.C. He signed up to visit Bethesda Urban Partnership so he could see how marketing worked on the nonprofit side.
As he toured Bethesda with BUP Executive Director Dave Dabney, Tatem was impressed by Dabney’s knowledge of the community. “It was interesting to hear from somebody who really liked what he did,” Tatem said. “He was such a wealth of knowledge about Bethesda.”
And that was the take-home lesson that no amount of class time could possibly teach.
“If you’re going to wake up in the morning and go to a job, you better make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about,” Tatem said. “You can’t do your best if you’re not passionate about it.”