Nearly 100 high school students had a good excuse for missing their morning at school Tuesday morning, as they participated in the 13th annual National Groundhog Job Shadow Day.
The teens spread across the valley, from Boston Scientific to Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic, rode with Newhall County Water District workers and stood in surgical suites at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.
They watched lawyers in court, went along on with the fire department on a cat rescue and inspected amusement park rides.
They even braved an hour with KHTS's morning jock, Brandon Gibson, and lived to tell about it. Hart junior Leah Blumenthal (pictured above) learned everything she needed to know about radio during her three-hour tour.
The SCV School and Business Alliance organized the event, which involved all area high schools and dozens of local businesses. Mentors from each business welcomed the students and gave them first-hand experience in their day-to-day work lives, inspiring some and educating others that learned enough to choose another field.
One student who shadowed a Newhall County Water utility worker said that it wasn't his first choice, but he was glad he went along to see what they do. His first choice was to shadow an anesthesiologist, but those slots were full.
The hospital had the largest number of students by far, with 16 from all campuses following doctors and observing procedures, which one girl described in detail, adding "it wasn't gross like we thought it might be."
After their morning's adventure, the students and their mentors were treated to lunch at the City of Santa Clarita's Activities Center. Keynote speaker Jay Thomas, President of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor spoke about the importance of leadership in the students' success.
"We're going to talk about leadership qualities," he began. "I'm referring to your ability to do six things. Believing you can make a difference and wanting to make that difference. Dreaming - those of you who are job shadowing keep hearing that you can be anything you want to be, but you have to dream first. Inspire - selflessness is what inspiration really is; it's the ability to look at others' ideas and bring them to fruition. How do you help make other people successful? Intensity - often times you think of intensity as a negative word, but intensity is about passion. You can have intensity in relationships, about tests, about everything that you do in your life. True leaders have a quality of intensity about them and don't let things pass them by.
"Desire - you've got to want it, you've got to believe it, but you've got to want to do it. The last key is character - it's built on a lot of things, and you've got to surround yourself with the right people. Character is the hardest thing to build and the easiest thing to lose.
Start thinking about things you're doing to build your character."
Thomas shared his experience at Six Flags, which has spanned at least 20 years. He told the crowd that he started out loading guests on Roaring Rapids at Six Flags Over Texas and stuck around because he would get to drive a car inside the park after closing time.
"Even at the age of 18 and 19, I didn't even know what a career was. But there are always opportunities to learn."
The importance of events such as the Groundhog Day gathering played into Thomas' presentation, and he encouraged the students to shadow more than once a year.
"There's one thing you can't do in life, you can't be successful unless you surround yourselves with leaders and mentors," he said. "You need to find your mentors, your educators, who will teach you to be better individuals. Whether they are pastors, teachers or business leaders, the most important mentors are those working in the positions you want to work in."
He recalled when the then-president of Six Flags Over Texas took four hours to map out Thomas's career path.
"I approached him and he said 'let's schedule some time,' and spent four hours with me mapping out my future. I didn't appreciate it then, but I had no idea what taking four hours out of his schedule meant until now, that I'm working it each and every day.
"Approach each and every day as if it's the last chance you have to make a difference," he concluded, offering one more thing - the time to walk Magic Mountain with any student interested in learning how to run an amusement park.
Michael Onuscheck, President of Boston Scientific, added to Thomas' message.
"You can do anything you really want, your life is completely in front of you," he said. "You can achieve anything you can dream, Jay's absolutely right about that. Today's job shadowing should give you an idea of how much opportunity is out there. Go find it, do it every day. This is a fantastic program."
Upcoming events organized by the SCV School and Business Alliance include the Career Technical Education Awareness Day on March 26 at College of the Canyons and a Discovering Careers exploration fair for students ages 5 through 20 on April 17 also at COC. For more information, call the SCV School and Business Alliance at 661-753-5740.