During Evanston Township High School’s spring break at the end of March, 26 sophomores, juniors and seniors participated in the inaugural iKit Job Shadow Week program in which students could explore career options by spending 20 hours working with local business partners in a variety of industries.
On Monday, April 4, those students gathered with employer representatives, city officials and ETHS career and technical education staff to celebrate their work, write thank you notes to the businesses that hosted them and receive a stipend check for their work, which was paid for by donations to the ETHS Foundation.
The new spring break career experience offers students additional access to alternative career pathways beyond college and a chance to learn more about the industries they could be interested in exploring, according to ETHS Career Partnership Manager Tana Francellno. Collectively, the 26 participating students worked with nine local employers, including restaurants, Northlight Theatre and health care employers like NorthShore University HealthSystem.
The program also serves as an extension of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which matches Evanstonians between the ages of 14 and 18 with local companies and businesses for a paid summer internship. The city has almost 60 potential employers lined up for the program this summer, said Neil Gambow, Chair of the Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council. Students have until this Friday, April 8, to sign up for the summer job program.
“We really wanted to do job shadowing as well as internships because that’s just another way of getting kids involved, and I think that had never been done at the high school,” Gambow told the RoundTable at Monday’s celebration. “The kids all came in, and they were all really interested in a certain career path.”
Gambow also added that almost half the students wanted to shadow health care jobs, and 12 students ended up working with NorthShore and AMITA Health during the spring break week. In fact, two students who completed the program already have summer internship offers with their respective employers.
One of those two students, ETHS senior Lashylah Bowen, shadowed a sonographer and a sterile processing technician at NorthShore Evanston Hospital. Bowen said she was not a big fan of sonography, but she loved following the technician because of her interest in becoming a surgical technologist one day.
“We went up to the [operating room], and we got to see the trays, and it was more of a job shadow,” Bowen said. “The second day, it was like we were actually interns, doing the job, so that’s what really got me, and it was a hands-on experience. It was just fun. I think I could actually do that for a career, and it’s a stepping stone into the hospital so wherever you start is not where you end.”
Aliya Gillon spent the week shadowing different roles at Koi Fine Asian Cuisine and Lounge on Davis Street, where she learned how to take orders, seat tables and more. She said it was a great experience for learning how the hospitality industry typically works, and she is returning to Koi for a job this summer.
“This is the next way you’re going to start knowing what to do in the real world,” Francellno, the ETHS Career Partnership Manager, told participating students on Monday. “Job shadowing will probably be here to stay. You are my first cohort, and I’m grateful for you all showing up and taking care of business. While everybody was on vacation, you were making money, so I’m proud of you for that.”
In addition to these recent expansions in workforce development efforts for Evanston’s youth, the leading candidate to succeed Eric Witherspoon as ETHS superintendent, current Principal Marcus Campbell, told student and parent interview panels last week that one of his main priorities for the next five years as superintendent would be to redouble investments in career and technical education at the high school level.
“Young people are ready to learn, and we’re trying to convince young people that you’re going to be learning for the rest of your life,” Gambow said when asked about Campbell’s emphasis on career education. “Don’t think that you’re going to graduate and that’s the last thing you learn. I don’t care if you’re a plumber, a doctor, a machinist, you’re going to be learning all the time, so get comfortable with it.”