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It's Win-Win for Company and Student

August 22, 2002

Shakespeare once stated, "Learning is but an adjunct to ourself." That fact was brought home to Henry "Drew" Abbot on Aug. 1, when he was named Outstanding Intern of the 2002 Summer Economics Institute.

Abbot will begin his senior year at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes this fall. From June 21 to Aug. 2, he served as a summer intern at New Target, a new Web site design and hosting company based in Old Town Alexandria.

"My internship this year at New Target was very rewarding because it was a smaller company. I felt like I was more a real part of the company and could see the results of my work," Abbot said.

He was one of 23 students entering their senior year who participated in the 20th annual summer institute. It draws students from T.C. Williams, St. Stephen's and St. Agnes, and Bishop Ireton high schools. Sponsored by those schools and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, it operates under the guidance of Jack K. Henes, director, Economic Institute and School-to-Career Project.

INTERNS WORK an eight-hour day, four days a week. One day each week is devoted to the study of economics and applications to business through field trips, presentations by business professionals, and a variety of interactive experiences. There is also the opportunity to earn a half-credit in economics based on performance, according to Henes.

At its conclusion each summer, one student is picked as the program's outstanding intern and is awarded a $1,000 scholarship to be paid to the college or university he attends. Abbot said that he is considering the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina and Wake Forest.

"The scholarship recipient is determined by a combination of factors including a performance review by their sponsor, a stand-up presentation pertaining to their experiences in the program, and their grades on four tests throughout the summer," Henes explained.

"I want to major in computer science and minor in business. I definitely want to work in the computer industry," Abbot emphasized.

Last summer, on his own, Abbot interned at a larger technology firm. "This year I was able to interact with the day-to-day operations much more," he said.

That was buttressed by New Target's president, Laura Machanic. "Within a week of his arrival, he was doing great work," she said. "Drew filled a very real and necessary niche here. And we were thrilled when he was named the scholarship winner."

SHE NOTED THAT when she was approached about being an Institute sponsor and taking an intern, she viewed it as a very pragmatic commitment. "People were calling and thanking me for doing this like it was a social thing. To me it was very practical. We needed the help," Machanic insisted.

Each sponsoring company puts up $1,100. At the conclusion of the internship, each student receives $800. The remainder is used toward program expenses. The $1,000 scholarship award is in addition to the regular stipend.

Started in 1998 by Machanic and Rudi Ottina, New Target is based at 228 S. Washington St. Machanic obtained controlling interest and became president and CEO in January 2002.

It is one high-tech firm that has not suffered from the dot-com bubble burst. "Our revenues grew by 23 percent in 2001. It was a very healthy and profitable year. And, we are looking forward to the same in 2002," she said.

Machanic, a native Alexandrian, attributes her firm's success to "a very diverse, steady, and loyal client base. We are generalists and don't specialize in any one technology."

COMMENCING AS a Web design and hosting enterprise, New Target has broadened its base to include e-mail marketing, search-engine positioning and database development and integration, according to Machanic. They now have five on staff and serve industry, academic and association clients.

"We were so impressed with Drew that we would have loved for him to stay on throughout the school year, but he had too many other obligations. However, his presence and contributions proved that we really need someone to do what he was doing," she said.

"We have found another student who is just moving here from California. He is going to be working for us part-time throughout the year," Machanic related. "In fact, Drew is going to help train him."

As a result of his winning the scholarship, Abbot was able to further increase his technological expertise by attending a one-week computer camp in Atlanta, Ga., this past week. "I'll be learning about the Linux System," he said.

In addition to their company and association internships throughout the area, field trips provide exposure to all elements of the business and political world. "One of the great things about the Institute is that you get an actual introduction to the real business world," Abbot said.

This year those field trips included such diverse venues as Alexandria City Council, a federal government lobbyist's office, a congressional office, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, an architectural firm, an investment firm and the Mayor's Office of the City of Baltimore.

Out of that panoply, Abbot confided, "I especially enjoyed the visit to the lobbyist's office. I learned a lot about how the political system really works."