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Economics Institute Offers Real Life Insight

Students trade textbooks for business world reality.

Having just completed its 23rd year, the Summer Economics Institute is designed to give students experiences in the workplace that can not be acquired in the classroom, according to Jack K. Henes, director.

"It gives them real life experiences that mesh the academic with reality," he said.

Initiated in 1982 as a cooperative educational project between St. Stephens and St. Agnes School and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, its sponsors now include Alexandria City Public Schools, and a host of organizations, businesses, and academic institutions.

Over a six-week period from late June to early August, the program provides an opportunity for selected high school students, between their junior and senior years, to learn about the professional work place and its relationship to the study of business and economics. Student-interns are recommended by their schools and selected on the basis of potential for academic growth and leadership, according to Henes.

Participants are paid an honorarium and have the opportunity to earn academic credit in economics. In addition to their four work days each week the interns take a series of learning trips to various economic venues. This year those included the World Bank, the office of U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8), U.S. Patent and Trade Office, and the American Society of Naval Engineers.

THE CLASS OF 2005 consisted of 16 students. Of that total, 11 came from T.C. Williams High School, four from St. Stephens and St. Agnes, and one from Bishop Ireton. They individually interned with 14 employers, of which eight were businesses, two were nonprofit associations, and four were either government or public education entities.

At the final academic session, Institute students present a visual and verbal evaluation of their internship experience. Each not only relates what they did during their six-week immersion into the real business world but also what they gained from that experience.

Those insights were presented to their fellow interns last Thursday morning at T.C. Williams High School. Here is a sampling:

"I had so much fun and learned so much at the same time. What really stuck with me was that economics is really a social science. Everything is economics."

"One of the things that impressed me about the company I was with is that they are really concerned about their clients. And, the most important part of any business is the people you are working with and for."

"Working is the best learning experience. In school it comes from books. At work it came from real life."

"We should broaden this program to include more students. It was so worthwhile."

"I couldn't have done anything better with my summer. I worked from nine to five each day, had an hour off, and then went to football practice."

EACH YEAR a $1,000 Outstanding Intern Scholarship Award is presented to the student or students who have achieved the highest ratings academically and in fulfilling the requirements of their internship through evaluations by their employers. For the past two years it has come down to a tie with each receiving the $1,000 award.

This year's recipients were Mohammad Hossain and Ibrahim Kargbo, both from T.C. Williams. Hossain interned at the Redmon Group, Inc., and Kargbo with the Washington Airports Authority. Their scholarship awards can only be used toward tuition at the institution of higher learning of their choice.

As for the experience, Hossain said, "I found my internship to be very educational. I probably learned more this summer than I will in college. I really love the Economics Institute.

"I want to be a graphic or Web site designer and I hope to go to either Virginia Tech or UVA. If I could, I'd really love to go to Stanford because it's the best art school, and that includes graphic design, in the country. But, its pretty expensive."

However, he might be able to cover some of that expense. "The Redmon Group asked me to stay on for the rest of the summer and said I was welcomed to come back next summer if I wanted to return," Hossain said.

THIS SUMMER'S students school and intern sponsors were: Sara Fry and Alexandra Goodman, T.C. Williams, Susan Ridenhour, Association of Fund Raising Professionals; Samuel Goss, T.C. Williams, Paul Wilson, Wilson Grand Communications; Mohammad Hossain, T.C. Williams, John Redmon, Redmon Group, Inc.; Maquita Irvin, T.C. Williams, Jen Harris, Alexandria Office on Women.

Also, Ibrahim Kargbo, T.C. Williams, Nancy Edwards, Washington Metro Airports Authority; Phuong Lu, T.C. Williams, Carolyn Martin, Landmark Mall Management; Mariam Maknassi, T.C. Williams, Margaret Walsh, Alexandria City Public Schools; Casey McClelland, T.C. Williams, David McCabe, City Managers Association of America; Matthew Pease, Bishop Ireton, Richard Endres, The Washington Network.

Also, Andrew Propp, St. Stephens and St. Agnes, Denise Woodard, North American Management; Steven Stancil, T.C. Williams, Aisha Maxwell, Dimensions International, Inc.; Christopher Trahos, St. Stephens and St. Agnes, Lindsay Vick, North American Management; Joe Trunzo, St. Stephens and St. Agnes, Patty Brempell, The Mark Winkler Co.; Jeff Weaver, T.C. Williams, Emily Debnotis, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Co.; and Matthew Yurow, T.C. Williams, Laura Mechanic, New Target.