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December 2, 2009
Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer

It might be a tough job market, but some Henry County middle school students landed their dream jobs for a day.

According to Henry County Schools spokesman Melany Stowe, a group of eighth-graders participated in job shadowing Tuesday. Before choosing where they wanted to go, Stowe said students met with a career coordinator to talk about career goals and take a career assessment.

On the job site, most students spent the full day with a mentor. The experience, Stowe said, would help students decide if the job they shadowed is something they are interested in pursuing as a career.

Samantha Workman and Kimberly Whorley, both eighth-graders from Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, spent their day at the SPCA working with animal health care director Nicole Cooke.

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Cooke said the two students spent the first part of the day cleaning dog runs, or kennels, and filling cups with dog treats for visitors. They also helped when animals got shots, and they gave flea baths to animals arriving at the SPCA.

Cooke said five dogs were brought in that day from Henry County animal control, and they needed shots and baths before they could see visitors who might want to adopt them. Workman and Whorley both agreed that bathing the dogs was their favorite part of the day.

If someone enjoys working with animals, they should pursue animal care, Cooke said. She recommended a veterinarian technician license, which can be obtained after high school. There are many jobs available to anyone who wants to work with animals, and Cooke said she enjoys working at the SPCA.

At the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, another student learned about a job that helps make nonprofit organizations such as the SPCA and VMNH possible - marketing. Chipper Jones, an eighth-grader at Fieldale-Collinsville, shadowed Ryan Barber, director of marketing and external affairs for VMNH.

Barber said one of the biggest parts of his job is to find stories about the museum to communicate to the public through media releases, Web sites and other means. Writing, he said, is a big part of the job, as well as being involved with the institution itself.

"It's important to make great exhibits and have great programs, but we still have to get people to come in to see them," Barber said.

That is where marketing comes in, he said, explaining that his job is to feature events, programs, exhibits or research in materials that will be sent to the audience who would be interested in that subject.

For example, Barber said a scientific discovery would be sent to academic and scientific journals, while information on a children's educational program might be sent as a news release to local newspapers and television and radio stations. Ideally, a reporter will cover a story after receiving a media advisory, but if the reporter cannot make it, Barber sends a news release, he said.

Barber gave Jones a tour of the museum, explaining various exhibits and ideas that are important to communicate to the public through marketing. Jones said he wants to pursue marketing because his older brother studied it, and he added that the subject looks interesting.

There are different ways to get into marketing, Barber said. He majored in mass communications in his undergraduate and graduate education. Although understanding other forms of media, such as Web sites, photography and graphic design is important, Barber said he spends a lot of his time writing.

One trend that is changing in marketing and will affect the work force Jones will enter, Barber said, is that Internet social networking no longer is optional for many companies. VMNH has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, and he said his job sometimes requires updating them and writing content.

Social networking reaches a wide audience, and it is affordable, Barber said. He added that some larger companies are beginning to hire employees whose entire job involves managing the company's presence on these Web sites.

That means a student who spends hours on social networking sites may accidentally be preparing for a future career.

In addition to Cooke and Barber, students shadowed teachers, nurses, school counselors and band directors, law enforcement officers, a newspaper photographer and professionals in other fields, Stowe said.