Job Shadow Day

From left back row, Gretchen Tucker Underwood, Maria Ines Motta, Claudia Motta, Claudia Almeida, Camilla Prata, Ana Clara Alves, Poliana Abreu Lara, Prudy Carter Donovan. Front row, Yolani Doddy, Kristina Petruitytė, Shawna Brown, and John Reine at the MVYLI job shadow day reception. —Stacey Rupolo

Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative’s (MVYLI) Job Shadow Day helps answer a question that strikes fear in the hearts of many a high school student: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

On Friday, Feb. 3, MVYLI held a Job Shadow Day Reception at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, attended by students, parents, and mentors.

“We’re here to lift you even higher than you’ve already risen,” said MVYLI advisory council member Gretchen Tucker Underwood in her opening speech at the reception. This year, MVYLI matched six Vineyard students with mentors on and off the Island. They shadowed their mentor or mentors for several hours, to get an inside look at the day-to-day workings of their potential profession.

“One of the best parts is to see the joy in their eyes, and their passion,” said MVYLI executive director Marianne Larned. “It gives them energy because they know where they want to go.”

Camilla Prata is a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). She has wanted to be a doctor since the sixth grade; however, she was unsure as to which type of doctor she wanted to be. After a Job Shadow Day last year in the Emergency Room of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, she realized that she wanted to specialize in a field rather than go into general practice. This year, she shadowed Dr. David Rancourt, a cardiologist at Falmouth Hospital: “He said to me, If you’re doing it for the money, do something else, go into business or something. I don’t want the money, I want to do it for the respect.”

Students going on these Job Shadow Days had hands-on experience in their fields. Camilla said, “I got to feel patients’ heart rates, what’s a good beat versus what’s an unhealthy beat, and it was interesting to see how Dr. Rancourt interacted with his patients.”

Mentors also showed their shadows the less exciting parts of their jobs. Mark Hahn is a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He mentored Isabel Robertson, a junior at MVRHS. Mr. Hahn said, “Often people don’t understand the day-to-day parts of my job. There are fun parts and not so fun parts, but the not so fun parts are necessary for the fun parts.”

Mr. Hahn studies animal responses to toxic chemicals, a particularly timely field. But he estimates that he spends about a quarter of his time filling out grant applications to make his research possible. Isabel got a tour of his lab and was able to talk to Mr. Hahn’s colleagues in other fields, but it was important that she was given an honest look at what being a scientist would entail.

The students weren’t the only ones that benefited from the Job Shadow Day. Nancy Slonim Aronie, founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, mentored Lila Norris, a junior at MVRHS and an aspiring writer. “Lila was so brilliant that I should have been taking the workshop from her,” said Ms. Aronie. “She gave me hope. To have a young person so aware of the world around her and her place in it really gave me hope for the future.”

Rose Styron also mentored Lila on a Job Shadow Day: “I found her questions to be really good ones which made me have to think. I feel lucky to have been chosen as her student to shadow,” said Mrs. Styron.

The reception acted as a capstone for the Job Shadow Days, and was a chance for the students to come together and share their shadowing experiences. “The reception is one of the highlights. For their families, they get to see that there is a purpose for their education,” said Ms. Larned. “You really get to hear their passion, and everyone leaves hopeful.”