By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — With one in five high school seniors participating and a constantly increasing number of participants, Danville High School’s cooperative education program has grown to new heights.
A total of 37 seniors out of the senior class of 180 are participating in the program.
“We take learning outside of the four wall of this building,” said Laurie Allison, a Danville High School teacher and advisor for the school’s co-op program.
Allison, who has spent the past 16 years at Danville, had previously established the co-op program at Southern Columbia’s school district.
The program is meant to “give kids a chance to investigate their career objectives and make sure it’s what they want to do,” Allison said. While many students find a career they enjoy through the program, just as many realize that another job may be suited to them.
One student had wanted to be a pharmacist, and was place in a paid position at Geisinger through the co-op program.
“It was an eye-opener for him,” Allison said, in that the student realized that this wasn’t what he wanted for a career.
The cooperative education program broke their record for job placements this year, with a total of 36 being offered to students. When Allison started, there were only 10 to 12 offered.
It’s been taking off every year thanks to community support, said Allison. “This is a partnership for the school and community,” she said. The school always sends their best students out to represent the district, she added.
Organizations that offered job placements this year include Geisinger Health System, FNB Bank, Alpine Animal Clinic, Danville Ambulance Association, Weis Market and the Danville Area School District.
Senior Gabby Winger, 17, first became interested in working with animals after a veterinary science class at Danville High School. That led her to starting an internship at Alpine Animal Clinic at the beginning of this school year.
Gabby spends four days a week at the clinic, usually working there for two hours during the morning.
Her duties include working at the reception desk, caring for animals in the back of the clinic and observing surgeries. “I’m kind of doing a little of everything,” she said.
“I’ve learned its not just about animals. You have to communicate with the owners, too.” They have to communicate what treatment the animal needs and she in turn needs to tell them what they can expect from those procedures, she said.
Even though she’s only been at Alpine for a few weeks, Gabby plans to continue her veterinary work based on what she’s seen.
“I do really enjoy it here. It’s made me realize I can do this and I would like to continue,” she said.
Phil Amarante, 17, has found similar success in his job placement at the Weis Research Center located on Geisinger’s Danville campus. At the center, he is assisting with an experiment meant to track how heart defects affect the development of embryos. He is in the lab every weekday from at least 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., though some days he stays longer.
His lab duties involve recording and keeping track of DNA samples of mice that have different mutations based on the center’s heart research.
Phil wants to major in biomedical engineering at Bucknell University once he graduates from Danville. His goal is to work with patients who need prosthetics or new organs.
“This is my jump into the career,” he said. “Every day I’m getting closer and closer to the career I want. It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for me.”
Since joining the team at the Weis center, Amarante has realized just how complex his chosen field is. However, that has only made him more excited to start his career. “The main thing I do here is learn,” said Amarante. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity.”
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