Niles students getting real-world job experience

Published 7:09 am Thursday, June 12, 2003

By BY BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES --How many seventh graders get to work for a local United States Department of Agriculture office that is a leader in national and regional biological control.
Not many, one might imagine.
But that's not the case for five seventh graders from Ring Lardner Middle School currently taking part in Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning's "On Location" program.
The program's intention is to provide students with a week-long internship that help demonstrate how skills learned in school are used in a workplace, and how success in school can lead to success beyond the classroom.
For an entire week, the five students are given the opportunity to assist staff at the state department's Invasive Pests Management Laboratory, located at 2534, S. 11th Street, in Niles.
The laboratory was established in 1966 to develop and implement biological control for a serious grain pest, the cereal leaf beetle.
Linda McNitt, a Niles Community Schools career counselor, is responsible for placing the Ring Lardner students in local businesses.
She said On Location originated in Berrien County; has been around for six years and participating students sign up to take part in the program.
She said it also gives the students a chance to learn how to work with other people and shows them how hard work at school can get them interested in jobs in the future.
Seventh graders Autumn Grayson and Chris Archer were among the lucky five picked to work for the state department's laboratory in Niles.
They are both interested in science.
Grayson said so far she has helped staff with maintenance work, such as power washing the parking lot to ensure people won't drag bacteria into the different labs, and filing paperwork in the offices.
She has also unpacked boxes filled with plants the department uses in its research.
Archer has also enjoyed his time working at the lab but because the five students rotate who they work with each day, he has so far been exposed to more scientific work than Grayson.
In addition to working, Grayson and Archer said the five students spend a portion of the day as a group discussing and writing in their journals.
They also said McNitt comes by each day to see how they are doing.
David R. Prokrym Ph.D., laboratory director, said working with students of all ages is important to the lab.
But Prokrym also said it's important to encourage women to pursue science and to let them know they have the same chance to succeed as men.
He also encourages students in general to pursue science at school, whether they are high school, graduate or grade school students.