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Students Get Taste of 'Real World'

A group of Herndon High School students take part in annual job shadow day.

Despite the intermittent flakes that fell in Fairfax County, Monday wasn't another snow day in Herndon, but 21 local high school students did have permission to miss class.

For the second year in a row, Herndon High School participated in the Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Five local businesses took part in the program that helps show teenagers that the "real world" is more than just an MTV reality show.

Bruce Hankins, a senior at Herndon High and 18-year-old Herndon resident, has a strong interest in graphic design. Hawkins, who hopes to go to American University in the fall, spent the day at the National Wildlife Federation in Reston on Monday. Hankins spent time with Josh Anderson, the federation's Web site designer, and with Seth Troy, its Web marketer for the NWF's children's publications.

And it's not only the students who get something out of the program. Troy said he enjoyed his experience with the high schoolers. "Armen here has been working on graphs," he said, pointing to his computer screen and to his shadow student 16-year-old Armen Karimian. "He's been teaching me some things and he even caught a mistake that I made."

Troy said he thinks it is important for students to be introduced to a "real world" environment and to begin developing contacts for after graduation. "You learn so much more hands on," he said," than you do reading from a textbook.

<b>"IT'S A GREAT WAY</b> to introduce kids into what we do here at the NWF," said Eliza Russell, the volunteer manager for the NWF. "Students from across the county have been volunteering and mentoring with NWF for over 10 years. We are looking for new ways to connect with youth and the community."

Maureen Erickson, the employment and transition representative for Herndon High, organized the event. "It's a great chance to get real world experience and to see what real people do everyday," Erickson said. "Students may think of a career in graphic design, but they may not think of the World Wildlife Federation. There are so many more options out there that kids wouldn't naturally think of and that is what makes this day so important."

Last year, one business, the Dulles Hyatt, participated in the job shadowing day. This year, Erickson added four additional local businesses, in addition to the NWF, including Verizon Internet Services in Reston, Studio Four Squared in Sterling and United Methodist Church in Herndon.

<b>A HERNDON SENIOR</b>, Chrystal Kraftchak has known what she wants to do since her freshman year. Kraftchak wants to go into catering and, on Monday, she got to see her future up close. The 18-year-old spent the day learning the "tricks of the trade" with Kirk MacKinnon, the director of catering for the Hyatt Dulles. "I really wanted to come here today and learn what a job like this really is like," she said. "I want to see what the day-to-day routine will be like, the good and the bad."

Kraftchak will enroll in the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh. This was not her first experience behind the scenes, however. For three months, she worked at Lonestar restaurant on Elden Street.

"She's going to Culinary School and she is obviously really focused on the industry," MacKinnon, who participated in a similar program when he was in high school, said. "She's got a great head start. To be truly happy in whatever field you choose, you have to have that passion and she clearly has it. That is a big step in the right direction."

MacKinnon told her that catering can be a great job because everyday there is always something new and different. "I learned that I can't be very wishy-washy," the future caterer said. "He taught me that I have to keep a level head."