High school students jump start careers with Career Practicum

By Isabella Weibel
Special to The Citizen

Editor’s Note: Isabella Weibel is a Stuttgart High School career practicum intern for the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office, and fellow military child who has been stationed in Stuttgart for over five years. 

Stuttgart High School’s Career Practicum program holds positions for about 35-45 students per year, depending on the size of the junior and senior classes to give high school students the opportunity to discover their individual interests, capabilities, and goals.

The program is limited to juniors and seniors, as underclassmen need to fill their schedule with core courses before being able to choose two periods for an elective.

Most high school students in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools the United States have the opportunity to participate in a work-study program. Here in Stuttgart, DoDEA offers Career Practicum.

“It is a very valuable program as it gives students the chance to see if they will like the daily activities and tasks of a particular career,” said Winifred Zekel, Career Practicum teacher and coordinator.  It is best to have a direction as to a career choice by junior year in college, and the experiences in Career Practicum help students meet that goal.

Some examples of where students have previously been placed are: the veterinarian clinic, health clinic, optometry clinic, the physical therapy clinic, the Sindelfingen Hospital, American Red Cross, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Public Affairs Office for the Stuttgart Citizen, U. S. European Command’s (EUCOM) public affairs, Army Community Service (ACS), the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation, and Kelley Theater, to name a few.

“As a volunteer at the Physical Therapy Center, I do everything from cleaning off the mats and tables, to treating and interacting with the patients. I always try to start conversations in order to make the patients feel more comfortable and relaxed,” Career Practicum Student at the Physical Therapy Center, David Humphreys said.

“I felt like I needed the work experience before I went to college,” said Ashley Pannaman, student at the Red Cross Stuttgart Station. Each placement offers a unique set of experiences to students. Pannaman, 18, plans on becoming a nurse but does not speak enough German to work at a hospital. Luckily, working for the Red Cross gives her the same experience to focus on humanitarian work within the same field. As the office support staff, Pannaman was in charge of organizing the Blood Drive and Red Cross Ball.

“I have learned how to communicate better with other people and I’ve gotten more confident with myself and my people skills,” said Pannaman.

Students looking to become involved in the program must fill out and submit an application by May of the previous school year, stating which career field they are interested in and what work experience they already have.

Students are expected to make decisions, accept responsibilities and show initiative, the end result is a student who better understands who he or she is and what career fields to consider.

“I chose to take Career Practicum because it’s the best way to get a feel for real life and to see if the career field I am interested in now, is one I want to pursue after college.” Humphreys said.

By the time school starts in the fall, students have either begun working at their chosen site or are still in the process of finding and/or getting a job.

Students PCSing into the Stuttgart military community during the summer still have a chance to be involved in the Career Practicum program. At the beginning of the school year it is possible for students to find a job in their preferred career field, apply, and arrange an interview.

Although, each student must take the initiative to independently organize and attend interviews with their future supervisors, students new to the community, they may not know where to start in this process. Ms. Zekel, Career Practicum teacher and coordinator, will not hesitate to offer her assistance to new and arriving students.

“I would definitely recommend this to other students because it is available, it provides first hand experience, and it helps students determine whether or not to continue their chosen career, after college,” said Humphreys.