At the beginning of her junior year at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Chloe Ober had a lot of ideas about which career path she might like to pursue after graduation.
“I was looking at three pretty different areas – law, engineering or something in science, like physical therapy,” says Ober, now a senior. The three paths, she knew, require very different approaches. She wanted to narrow it down.
Ober had the opportunity to do just that through NDP’s “Women In…” (or WIN), internship program. Through the program, which sets up NDP students with internship and shadow opportunities in the “real world,” Ober spent a day shadowing in the University of Maryland’s Legal Aid clinic. She also completed a two-week internship in Franklin Square Hospital’s OB/GYN department.
Both were illuminating, she says. “During my law experience, it was really interesting to see how, on a college campus, legal issues get worked out. My science experience was very informative to me because I had no idea what I was in for! It’s one thing to think about the job in your head, but being there in the room? People don’t get that hands-on experience.”
Based on what she learned about the law, medicine and herself during those opportunities, Ober has narrowed her focus for the future.
“I know medicine is not my thing,” she says. “I’m focusing on engineering and from my law experience, I know that I do like law but I have to figure out what specific type I want to do because I didn’t realize how many different types there are. I know, based on that one day, that some things are definitely not for me. It was really helpful because now I know I probably want to major in engineering but also have the opportunity to go to law school after I get my engineering degree.”
NDP started connecting students with real world internship and shadow opportunities in 2006, though for the first several years, the program was focused on jobs in science. Last year, the program was expanded to include business and law experiences which, so far, have included internships and shadow opportunities with a variety of local businesses, law firms and judges, as well as the Attorney General’s office and the University of Maryland legal aid clinic.
“Part of Notre Dame’s mission is to educate girls to transform the world. And we do a wonderful job educating students inside the classroom, but obviously there’s so much to learn in the outside world,” says Barb Mantler, the program’s coordinator.
“We partner with alumnae, who offer fantastic opportunities for the students. Part of the idea is not only to figure out what you like but also maybe what you don’t like. Most internships are targeted for college students, but for our students to add this at a high school level and go into college and help narrow down what field to study is awesome,” she continues.
Judge Nicole Pastore Klein, an NDP alumna and Maryland District Court judge, works closely with Mantler to place girls in business and law internships throughout the Baltimore region. She praises the program for the opportunities it gives NDP students to learn firsthand what they may and may not want to pursue in the future.
“How do these girls know what they want to try or be or do unless they experience it firsthand?” she asks. “Even within the legal field, you have the opportunity to shadow a judge or a litigator, or a legal clinic. Maybe they want a small company or a big company. This allows them to get a feel for it, so when they go to college they can target their courses.”
For the students, the benefit goes beyond particular career paths; they also take away general life lessons.
“From our perspective, it’s comforting to hear from people in their fields and the paths they followed, to know that there’s no one set path,” says senior Grace Sullivan, who, through the program, had the opportunity to spend time in Judge Klein’s courtroom in the District Court.
“Before this program I thought I was interested in law but now I’m pretty resolved I’m going to law school and I think I’d like to be in a litigative setting,” she says. “It was also impressive to see an NDP alum being an important part of our community in the Baltimore area.”
Both Sullivan and Ober came away from their experiences energized and inspired. “I wish I was a freshman so I could do more internships!” says Ober. “I’m so appreciative for all the opportunities. It’s so informative for my future career and my life, to hear from people who have reached success in different ways.”
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a Catholic, independent college prep school for girls, educating just over 800 girls in grades 6 through 12. For more information about NPD, please visit www.notredameprep.com.
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