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North Salem Seniors Find Vocations - Sometimes

Kristin Matega spent 50 hours working with third graders at the Somers Intermediate School, as Jennifer Oberlinder was learning about running a small business at Bella Moda Hair Design in Mahopac.

While Wendy Mumford tested her choreographic skills at Dance Naiad in Bedford Hills, Jessica Caputo discovered how much work goes into preparing a biology lesson plan.

Day after day Melissa Kanes made the commute to New York City to get a taste of magazine publishing at American Cheerleading.

Though Ryan Osleeb plans to study engineering at Harvard, he spent his internship working with a Dunkin Donuts executive, to learn about franchising. “I’m interested in how businesses operate,” he explained.

These are just some of the North Salem High school seniors who participated in the year-long O.P.T.I.O.N.S. program. AP History and Economics teacher, Robert Mittelstadt, who co-chaired the class with Dr. Nicholas Kowgios, explained that “though the course is optional, most students choose to opt in.”

“The fourth quarter for seniors is not really productive,” said Mittelstadt. “‘Senioritis’ is a real deal. They check out.” Realizing he could use the time to help them make a better transition into the real world, Mittelstadt talked to teachers from other schools and finally, along with a few teachers, came up with a program called Optional Pro-Training Inside and Outside of North Salem (O.P.T.I.O.N.S.)

Students spend the ninth period of the day learning professional and presentational skills and examining various fields that might interest them. Then they find outside mentors and eventually spend about six weeks as interns in the field of their choice.

The program has a two-fold success, said Mittelstadt. “Either it reaffirms their interest, or they realize it’s something they don’t want to pursue.” In that case, “they don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to find out it was the wrong choice.”

On Thursday, June 9, O.P.T.I.O.N.S. students described their objectives and reported on the results at the Project Presentation. The program was attended by faculty, students, members of the community and some of the mentors who generously assisted students during the year.

Correction: This event was rescheduled for Thursday, June 16 at 7pm.

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