By NOELLE M. STEELE, Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) _ By the time Caitey Sosnowski finishes her extended job shadow experience at Hancock Regional Hospital, nurse Joni Grubbs hopes she’ll have seen it all.

Good. Bad. Ugly.

“We have good stuff, and we have bad stuff; it’s all part of it,” said Grubbs, who is serving as a mentor this year for Greenfield-Central High School’s Mentor/Protege Program.

The program serves as the capstone course for the high school’s high-ability program.

For students like Caitey, part of their senior year will be spent learning lessons that can’t be taught in the classroom.

Caitey, 17, plans to attend Ohio Northern University next year to study nursing. As she considers a career path with so many possible avenues, she hopes her time shadowing Grubbs at the hospital will help narrow her focus.

“There’s so many medical fields you can go into,” she told the Daily Reporter ( ). “I’m really hoping to find my home.”

The course is volunteer for both the students and their mentors, who are asked to provide 40 hours of experience in their fields over the course of the school year. Most students spend one day a week on site.

It might not sound like much, but for students juggling coursework, athletics and other extracurricular activities, the commitment is substantial.

But it’s also a privilege. Students must apply and are selected to participate.

“It’s kind of an award,” senior Megan Long said. “I do feel honored, for sure.”

Megan, who plans to attend Butler University to study pharmacy, is shadowing a pharmacist at Walgreens this year.

Though she’s spent just a few hours in the field so far, she’s already finding she’s a good fit for the profession.

Megan is detail-oriented, a trait that is well-suited for someone entrusted with dispensing medication.

“I think I would work well in that environment,” she said. “Everything is so structured; step two will never come before step one. Some people don’t like that, but I like that.”

Associate Superintendent Ann Vail, who oversees the high-ability curriculum, credits the faculty advisers – Susie Schoeff, Janeen Gill and Cathy Clements – with the strength of the program, which is seeing an increasing number of participants each year.

Vail said the teachers work hard to make sure each student is partnered with the right mentor who will nurture their interests and answer their questions openly.

“They have developed really strong relationships with several metropolitan area organizations, agencies, hospitals, art groups,” Vail said. “And so the quality of mentors they’re able to match . really adds to the success.”

The students take away real-world experiences before they ever set foot in the field with their mentor, Vail added.

They are required to apply and go through a formal interview process, a first-time experience for many.

Once they are accepted, they are coached on proper work attire, attitude and overall responsibilities. The mentor helps students understand what is expected of them, both in terms of education prior to landing a job as well as professionalism in the workplace once they’ve secured a position in their chosen field.

“I’m learning so much, not even about my career but about becoming a better leader inside and outside of the school,” said Erin Kile, whose mentor is a research scientist for Elanco Animal Health.

Also, Erin is learning what her college path will look like in the coming years at Butler University, where she is planning to study chemistry and biology.

“I have learned that I need a lot of education, that it’s all about making connections,” she said. “I didn’t know what it really took. It’s not written somewhere.”

The experience teaches students the kind of responsibility and accountability that employers value in the workplace, said English teacher Schoeff, one of the program’s faculty advisers.

“They learn that in the work world, rarely are there acceptable excuses, that you can’t drop the ball, that you have to let somebody know if something has come up,” she said. “They learn the ins and outs, the way to navigate the world of work.”

Senior Garrett Hensley said he was pleasantly surprised to discover much of what he’s been learning in his engineering courses is applicable to the work his mentor, Jerrid Robinson, does at Keihin Indiana Precision Technologies, an automotive parts manufacturer.

“I go to Keihin to work, and we use like 99.9 percent that I’ve learned,” he said.

Garrett, who is considering Purdue University to study engineering, said he looks to the mentor program as a transition into life after high school.

“It’s kind of an eye-opener, too,” he said. “Mom and Dad aren’t going to be there to pack your lunch forever. You’ve got to get out into the real world and get your feet wet.”

The students aren’t the only ones taking something away from the program, Vail said.

In some cases, mentors have had such a positive experience that they return the following year, requesting a student to oversee.

Some of the mentor experiences have developed into internships and summer job opportunities, Vail added.

Adding another obligation during senior year can be stressful, but students say it’s worth the extra time and energy.

“We’re talking about your life,” Megan Long said. “In May, we’re all going to graduate, and we need to have a plan. I think it’s worth it for sure if it means confirming my career.”


Information from: (Greenfield) Daily Reporter,