Employers: an opportunity exists

Do you remember your first job? Mine was behind the costume jewelry counter smack in the center of Bullock's department store on South Lake in Pasadena. My boss was Eileen Hack.

I was 18, perhaps a little old for a first job aside from baby-sitting, but my parents had allowed me to put off seeking employment because from the age of 12 I was quite active in Job's Daughters, Bethel #226, and that organization took up a lot of my extracurricular time.

Mrs. Hack called me at home one summer day, completely out of the blue, and offered me the part-time Bullock's job. She had our phone number because both my older sisters had worked for her in the past. She'd met me in the store on a few occasions, knew I was in Jobies, as was her daughter in their hometown of Burbank, and thought of me when the opening came up. Mrs. Hack knew my family, was already in-tune with an organization close to my heart, and figured she and I would get along well. It was my first lesson in the value of networking.

I kept that part-time job throughout my college days. My next job was also gained from networking, with another unsolicited phone invitation to join a business, as was the job after that. In fact, it wasn't until 11 years ago this spring that I actually sought a job on my own. And I'm still here.

Today's kids have so much more on their plates than I did back in the day. And the smart ones have learned all about career networking at a far more tender age than I. At La Cañada High they're given a boost: students in grades 9-12 can participate in one of the Institutes for the 21st Century, where they work with professionals in real world environments. This year's institutes include Architecture, Astronomy, Business, Cancer Research, Oxy Bridges, Rainforest and the LCF Trails Council.

Or, the teens can take advantage of student internships arranged by the LCHS counseling office and offered at places such as the offices of our state senator and state assemblymember, La Cañada Flintridge City Hall, Hillcrest Pet Hospital, La Cañada Pet Clinic, Lanterman House museum, Verdugo Vista Health Care Center and the local newspapers, including this one.

We've had some really great interns from the LCHS campus in recent years, all of whom have also been involved with their student newspapers. Our interns have been smart, dedicated and reliable. And this is really great: their grammar skills are well-honed before they arrive here. Hooray for a strong English department!

It's not unusual for interns to keep in touch with me after graduation to see if they can write articles for us on a paid basis during their college breaks. Their earlier, unpaid experience here pays off then, as I'm sure it does for interns in the other fields where mentorships have been arranged through the counselors overseeing Institutes for the 21st Century.

You can see I endorse the program and I'd like as many people as possible to know about it — and benefit from it. If you have some time this afternoon, I'd like to encourage you to go to the La Cañada High cafeteria between 3 and 5 o'clock to visit the annual Showcase. According to counselor Sally Spangler, there will be displays of each of this year's institutes and internships, and refreshments will be provided by the ROP Culinary Arts Program. I really think you should go. Not only might you decide to become a program mentor yourself; you just may meet a talented, smart student you'll want to hire for your business one day.

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