AURORA — Ever wonder what it is like to work with the U.S. Marshals or the Cleveland Cavaliers? Did you have dreams of becoming a veterinarian or a composer? A group of seniors from Aurora High got to explore those options and more this spring.
Through the senior internship program, students can gain experience in fields that interest them during the last three weeks of the school year. Students must meet certain requirements such as a minimum 2.0 grade-point average, passing all classes, good attendance, no suspensions or truancy and no four-hour Saturday schools during the second nine-week grading period.
Students also have specific responsibilities students have during their internships, such as arranging for a community adviser — a school/faculty adviser to provide guidance — and designing a program to enable them to pursue professional interests in an educational manner.
Students are not compensated for their work and must complete a minimum of 30 hours per week, and they are required to keep a journal of their experience and prepare a presentation for the senior symposium.
One of the more unique opportunities was something called "Senior Experience" that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office offered. Cade Phillips spent each day of his internship participating with other high school seniors, splitting time in one or two departments.
Phillips spent time in purchasing, broadcasting, sales, marketing, IT digital, community relations and corporate communications, among others.
"It is very satisfying knowing students leave with their eyes open to the different jobs to strive for," said Deb Carr, human resources agent for the Cavs. "They learn there is more to the team than coaches and players, and that it truly is a business."
Phillips said he learned there is a "team behind the team and it takes a lot" to run the business. He said he entered the program with a high interest in marketing, and his time with the Cavs "really helped" further his interest.
"I really got to see how the sports world functions and how fast-paced it is," he said. "There is so much the players do outside of the arena."
A handful of students interned at the U.S. Marshal’s office in Cleveland. Marshal Peter Elliott said students were exposed to a variety of positions much like Phillips was with the Cavs.
Students spent time with the Drug Enforcement Administration, medical examiner and federal judges. Elliott said students were given cold cases to research and work on to gain exposure on how investigations are completed.
"We try to expose them to what we deal with on a daily basis," Elliott said.
Kaleen Girman said during her symposium presentation that things people stereotypically think the FBI does are things the marshal service does.
"The marshal service is very hands-on, doing big drug raids and missing people," Girman said. "I toured the FBI office; there are agents who have been there for 10 years and never arrested anyone."
Teaching the students the roles of all the agencies is one of the goals of the program, Elliott said. She added that motivating and preparing kids who are interested in the marshals is another goal, and allowing them to sit in on trials and hearings is only part of it.
"I demand respect," Elliott said. "I expect everyone to be treated equally, and I like to see passion and perseverance. I want them to know this is a serious game we play, and someone could lose a life. I want them to be 110 percent committed, because we don’t get a chance for an instant replay."
Girman said there were two "major" days while she was interning, and one was attending training day. "We went to the middle of nowhere," she said. "There were marshals from all over the country there, showing how to use guns and shields in different situations."
She said they learned how to load a magazine and shoot guns properly using "sim rounds" (or paint pellets) in a Glock 19. Students also learned how to safely enter a room other than just walking through a door and not knowing what to expect.
Girman’s second favorite day of her time with the marshals was spent with the medical examiner, and she said she aspires to be one of them.
"We got to see old scenes they reenacted with fake bodies, and talked about what to look for in this situation and what to do," Girman said. "Then we went downstairs, and they weren’t supposed to let the high school students see the bodies, although the college interns got to see an autopsy.
"But they opened the freezer for us and we got to see the lab where they work."
Learning how the examiners process fingerprints when a body is too decomposed to print was something Girman detailed during her presentation. A surprising thing was how much the building smelled like drugs.
She learned that weighing the drugs is actually done at the medical examiner’s office to determine what charges will be filed against the suspect.
"Going into the experience, I knew I wanted to do something in law enforcement, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the field or stay back and do the lab work," Girman said.
Upon being asked if she could kill someone, a requirement of the job, Girman said she didn’t feel like she could, and realized the lab work was a better fit for her.
"It was eye-opening," Girman said. "It’s a lot more intense than I thought, but looking at my career choices I still want to be in law enforcement, just not in the field."
She said she will discuss with her adviser the possibilities for her undergrad degree, possibly in forensic science or at medical school.
Nicole Dureiko, who also has a medical interest, explored a career in veterinary medicine. Having heard good things about Twinsburg Veterinary Hospital and Pet Lodge, she set her sights on working with the practice. After being accepted, she was the sole intern.
"I have always had a passion for animals, and I wanted to see if I could stand to watch them put needles in the dogs and see if I had the guts to do that and if watching surgeries would freak me out," she said.
Dureiko’s daily interaction with the office mainly involved observation and shadowing the veterinary team to learn their daily routine. Dr. Jeremy Hersh said one of the goals he had was to have Dureiko see not only the physical examinations but the communication between the doctors and the pet owners.
"She didn’t seem too caught off guard by anything, and was very attentive," Hersh said.
Indeed, Dureiko said she feels after her experience she could handle surgery, and her only difficulty was cleaning up diarrhea.
A challenging experience for any pet owner is euthanasia. Dureiko and Hersh said during her internship there was one situation where an animal’s quality of life became an issue.
While Dureiko was not in the room for the actual procedure, she observed the conversations during the appointments that led to the decision.
"I did not see the euthanasia — it is a very private moment for the pet owner," Dureiko said. "It was really hard on the owners, because this was their animal. The doctor gave them time to think about their options, and spoke slowly and calmly to make sure the owners understood all options."
She said the social interaction was key, because doctors go from appointment to appointment and each one varies from happy to sad.
In addition to shadowing the doctors, Dureiko spent time with the vet techs to see vaccinations being done, among other typical duties, such as weighing the animal.
Dureiko plans to pursue a degree in zoology at Kent State University, and is considering veterinary school afterward.
She said she enjoyed her experience and recommends that future seniors participate in the program to explore their interests.
In a non-medical field, Will Hermanowski chose to intern with Cleveland Orchestra violinist Scott Weber. Hermanowski said Weber lives up the street from him and felt it was a good opportunity because he is an aspiring composer.
"The Cleveland Orchestra is considered to be one of the best in the world, so this was too good of an opportunity to pass up," Hermanowski said.
During his time with Weber, Hermanowski attended several practices, and on his first night interning, he went to a concert. Because Weber and Hermanowski live in the same area, they had a lot of time to talk about music, pursuing a career in music and composing.
Weber said the two talked about composer John Williams and what makes his music sound a certain way, chords and harmonic structure. Hermanowski said they also talked about composing for musicians and how if a piece is too complex, musicians won’t play it.
Weber said he tried to expose Hermanowski to both the music side and business side of the orchestra.
"The business of music sometimes forces you to be creative on how you fashion your career," Weber said. "For composers, it can be a struggle to get started. There are various places to write — the orchestra is one medium — there are the movies, video games, which is the fastest growing orchestral recording medium there is right now."
Weber said Hermanowski may have to do other things to get rolling such as composing jingles and looking at music as a broad area. Hermanowski said he used to aspire to write film scores, but has now made becoming a college professor his goal.
"I’d like to write film scores, but I’d also like to have a steady income," he said. Hermanowski will attend the College of Wooster to pursue a major in music composition.
During Hermanowski’s internship, the orchestra was in the process of playing all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies for its 100th anniversary.
"The first two weeks, I researched Beethoven in preparation for a Prometheus Project (a concert series the orchestra did)," Hermanowski said. "That was really helpful, because I got to see how Beethoven was in his personal life and how it transferred over to the music."
He said the last week of his internship, he got to see the orchestra’s library, experience the front office, stand in the recording booth and listen from the audience.
"I learned there is a lot more going on behind the scenes," he said. "For instance, the management group makes sure everyone is there, gets paid, all the announcements get out and other administrative work."
He said the biggest surprise was how timely the process is.
"Rehearsals start on the second," he said. "Once it turns 10 a.m. the conductor says, ‘Hello everyone, we are playing Beethoven’s sixth,’ and they start. If they go even a second or two over, everyone is compensated for overtime, and they run very efficiently."
Hermanowski’s advice to future interns is to not just find something that will earn hours, but to explore a genuine interest.
Reporter Briana Barker can be reached at 330-541-9432, firstname.lastname@example.org or @brianabarker1.