No more groundhogs: Job Shadow Day faces future cancellation

Varada Gavaskar

Job Shadow program might face cancellation due to low student participation

Spring's impending arrival is accompanied by a reminder of the groundhog's legend. If it wakes up from hibernation to see its own shadow, we are faced with six more weeks of winter. And by playing on the word "shadow" to describe the act of following professionals through their workplaces, the MVHS Groundhog Job Shadow program was born. 2009 marks the PTA-sponsored event's fourth anniversary, (if the "pilot" trial year is held into account), but due to publicity and involvement issues, this might be its last as well.

Signups for the Job Shadow Program, which is open to students of all grades, began first semester. This year's 268 participants provided their top choices and were then matched to these companies by parent volunteers. After training in early January, they will be ready to participate in the program on Groundhog Day, which falls this year on Feb. 2.  

Yet the program continually falls short of its goal of 40 percent student body participation.

"We've tried everything," program chair Teresa Parry said, regarding Job Shadow's publicity campaigns. "We have a Web site, run ads in El Estoque and over announcements, and we post updates to School Loop regularly."

Despite all these efforts to promote the event, PTA faces many obstacles trying to increase participation. It surprises Parry that students do not seize the opportunity to skip a day of school and experience first hand the day-to-day lives of employees in different, engaging fields of work.

But she finds it more puzzling—and disappointing—that past participants neglect to spread awareness of the program through word of mouth, especially because not a single one has given the program a negative evaluation. In fact, each and every student who shadowed with Groundhog in the past four years has affirmed that they would do it again the following year.

In the past, students have toured leading companies including Cisco Systems, Inc., San Jose Mercury News, NASA, and a host of privately-owned businesses like law firms, veterinary, optometry, and ophthalmology clinics, graphic designers, and psychologists. This year they have even added Google to their list in response to student demand.

Because of the lack of sufficient interest, however, PTA is considering an alternative to Job Shadow Day. Rather than taking students out of school, they have considered bringing professional speakers to MVHS campus for a school-wide career fair. Students will be in class on a minimum day schedule and will move from speaker to speaker, listening to them describe their workdays and educational training.

"At least this way, all of our students will be involved," career center liaison Miriam Taba, who has worked alongside the PTA for publicity, said. The career fair will be an attendance-mandatory event, and the experience won't be left only to the students who take the initiative to participate.

It's too late to sign up for Groundhog Job Shadow Day now, but its elimination does show what inevitably happens to under-participated school programs. While most students do not know about next year's change yet, as it is still under consideration, many, such as junior Samantha Chen, were not happy with the news.

"I think it's dumb," Chen, a two-year participant, who shadowed Google, Inc., said. "We need to go to the actual workplace and experience it for ourselves. Listening to speeches won't have the same effect."