Students Shadow Newspaper Staff

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Tom Brossart/Roundup

Kaila Bohlman, a Payson High School junior, spent four hours job shadowing Roundup reporter Alexis Bechman this week.

Victoria Pierce wanted to job shadow someone who created manga — a Japanese-type of comic book. She ended up at the Payson Roundup.

“I wasn’t really looking for a newspaper, truth be told,” the Payson High School junior said when a reporter turned the job shadow into an interview. But manga-makers are apparently absent in Payson.

This is through no fault of Sandy Somsen, a career technician with Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology who works at Payson High School.

“This woman went through everything to find something,” Pierce said about Somsen.

Kaila Bohlman, a junior, wanted to shadow someone involved in photography or writing. When she found out she was paired up with a reporter from the Roundup, she was apprehensive.

“I was really nervous to come,” Bohlman said because she never had considered being a journalist. “After shadowing for several hours, it is a lot more interesting than I thought.”

While following reporter Alexis Bechman around, Bohlman designed a page, interviewed a shop owner, wrote a business story and took photographs for the upcoming special section.

“I thought it would just be a lot of writing, but it is cool,” Bohlman said.

Serena Martinez, who also arrived at the Roundup ready to report, had aspirations similar to Bohlman’s. She wants to attend an art school for graphic design or write books.

Every year, Somsen asks all PHS sophomores and juniors if they would like to job shadow. Students list three choices, and Somsen does her darnedest to find the kids what they’re looking for.

“I’ve even sent kids down to the Valley who have done fashion merchandising,” she said.

This year, one student wanted to shadow a coroner. Students have also investigated funeral homes and the butcher department at Safeway for future career opportunities.

Students receive no school credit, but gain immeasurable experience, Somsen said.

“Job shadow day demonstrates the connection between academics and careers,” she explained. It teaches students that school actually does matter.

“You’ve got to study hard if you’re going to be a vet,” Somsen said of one of the more popular job shadow requests.

The program also builds community partnerships, she added.

Usually, anywhere from 20 to 40 students participate in the job shadow, which traditionally revolves around Feb. 2, which is National Job Shadow Day. It also happens to be Groundhog Day, Somsen pointed out. “Shadow, get it?” she said, chuckling.

Students fill out an application packet, and they are asked to write a list of questions to ask the shadowee. Somsen said the biggest complaint of shadowers is that the students have no questions.

The “work host” receives a preparation packet, and Somsen directs students to contact the employers about what to do for lunch and what to wear.

“Usually, every year somebody gets hired,” Somsen said. Employers tell students, “‘We love you. Come May, when school is out, come work for us.’ It’s a great way to find out what they like and what they don’t like.” For a student, discovering dislikes is equally important to developing likes, she added.

Other career preparation events throughout the year include pseudo-interviews, where a community member in a high school student’s desired field interviews the student.

“They have to dress up and everything,” Somsen said. “It’s kind of scary for them.”

She does a career fair, and helps students develop their six-year plans, which plot a course through high school and the two years after.

Plans can include community college or university, technical schools, military or other job training.

“That helps them to see relevance,” Somsen said. It helps students focus their goals — say, veterinarian — and determine what classes they should take to help them prepare.

And perhaps Pierce, who also wants to write fantasy novels, will one day decide to become a journalist after all.

For Bohlman, who plans to attend the Art Institute in Phoenix after she graduates, she has added writing to her short list of career choices, if being a chef, photographer or graphic designer don’t pan out.

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