Campus News

‘Real-life experience’

Area high school students jump-start careers by working on campus

Sana Pasha plans to be a doctor one day. But this North Oconee County High School Honors senior isn’t waiting for medical school to begin her training. She’s already hard at work in UGA’s pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences laboratory, working with a professor on research and experiments for medicines that may one day make a difference in people’s lives. This doorway to opportunity was opened for Pasha by a unique and nationally-award winning high school internship program developed and coordinated by UGA Human Resources and appropriately named “Young Dawgs.

“Young Dawgs is the best ‘real-life’ experience I have had in high school,” said Pasha. “The people in the lab made me feel special, yet I’m treated like a college student, with no discrimination for my age. It’s fulfilling to know the experiments I conduct in the lab will make a difference in the future.”

Young Dawgs offers two programs for interested high school students. Academic Young Dawgs operates during the school year and matches high school juniors and seniors with internships related to their career interests. The Young Dawgs Summer Science and Academic Enhancement Program provides dedicated high school students with internships in various science labs and other competitive academic sites, with the goal of exposing future scientists, physicians and other professionals to the rigors of university life as well as allowing them a glance into potential careers.

In 2010, Young Dawgs received the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources’ SunGard Higher Education Innovation Award, a national honor which recognizes a human resource innovation.

Since its inception three years ago, the Young Dawgs program has hosted almost 300 area high school students. During this academic year, 45 Young Dawgs have served as interns in such campus locales as science laboratories, the Office of University Architects, the McPhaul Center, the Athletic Association, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Terry College of Business, the photographic services unit in the Office of Public Affairs, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Fanning Institute for Leadership, ROTC programs, the College of Pharmacy and the Human Resources office. Local high schools served by the program include Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals, Athens Academy, Monsignor Donovan, Prince Avenue, North Oconee, Oconee County and Banks County.

“Young Dawgs allows local high schoolers to acquire skill training and work experience directly related to their career and occupational interests,” said Jim Geiser, coordinator of the program. “As a result, students develop employability and occupational-specific skills, setting the stage for further post-secondary education and work. In essence, UGA is preparing, educating and training the highly skilled workforce required of the 21st century.”

“We created Young Dawgs as a regional workforce development initiative to serve not only the needs of UGA, but also to create a relationship with local high school students who may be interested in enrolling at the university. It is the proverbial ‘win-win’ situation,” said Becky Lane, human resources senior managing director at UGA.

Geiser and Lane are committed to making the Young Dawg experience as “real-world” as possible. Interested students must apply through the UGA job website, where internships are posted and include a cover letter along with their application. Next, the students interview with potential site supervisors. If they are selected, their student-supervisor relationship is closely monitored throughout the semester by the site supervisor and human resources staff.

Geiser is quick to mention that the commitment and support of the UGA faculty and staff and the support of the local high schools are the major reasons for the success of the program.

Lane is proud of the fact that the Young Dawgs program has been a benefit to her department as well.

“We are actively reaching out to young people during a time in their lives when they are making decisions about their future educational plans and career paths,” she said. “So, we’ve been able to step into a role in which we not only recruit staff for UGA, but we are helping to fulfill the overall mission of the institution by recruiting quality students.”