Guilderland will hold fair to let students know about paths to graduation

— Photo from Srikar Ganapathiraju
Three interns: Srikar Ganapathiraju, center, is a Guilderland graduate who says the internship he did in his senior year has since opened many opportunities for him in medicine. He is now a pre-med student at Boston University. Here, he poses with two other interns at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in a photo taken by a patient. Ganapathiraju is holding the patient’s emotional-support dog.

GUILDERLAND — Srikar Ganapathiraju, who graduated from Guilderland two years ago, says the internship in a glaucoma clinic he did as a high school senior has opened opportunities for him at Boston University, where he is a pre-med student.

Current Guilderland students can find out about internships like his and other options at a Dec. 4 Pathways Fair at the school.

His internship at Lions Eye Institute in Albany allowed Ganapathiraju an insider’s look at what the day of a doctor was like, Ganapathiraju said. He would accompany doctors as they spoke to assistants, nurses, and even, with patient permission, into the room for eye examinations.  

Ganapathiraju told The Enterprise this week that, in his freshman year at Boston University, the internship helped him get a research assistantship at the university’s medical school, focused on glaucoma, and to publish his research. Those experiences, in turn, opened doors to an internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Now a sophomore, he also has a paid position, during summer and other breaks, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, as a patient-care technician. 

Business courses at Guilderland helped Ganapathiraju with résumé-building and interviewing skills. The practice he gained in those classes gave him the confidence to make the most of his internships, he said. He makes a habit of introducing himself to doctors and explaining that he wants to learn all he can, and this, he said, led to a surgical internship at St. Peter’s. 

The Guilderland graduate is currently launching a not-for-profit awareness-and-outreach program called Boston Sees that connects people from underserved communities who are at risk for preventable eye diseases with health-care professionals, to get them free eye checkups, he said. 

He believes that his high-school training in business and finance will make him a better doctor, able to make good decisions on behalf of an office or hospital.


New pathways

On Dec. 4, ninth- through 11th-grade students at Guilderland High School will participate in a Pathways Fair, intended to let them know about the many options open to them. These include business courses that teach them how to create a budget and balance a checkbook, internships in fields that may interest them, and three new Career and Technical Education Pathway Programs to graduation. 

This fall, the State Education Department approved three new pathways to high-school graduation: in business management and entrepreneurship, marketing, and accounting and finance, according to Shannon Elliott, the Guilderland’s instructional administrator for business and family and consumer sciences and supervisor for art. 

Elliott, together with the district’s business and Family and Consumer Sciences teachers, told the school board about the new programs and other offerings, at its meetings on Nov. 19. 

The board heard that students in these Pathways programs can earn a Regents degree in a number of different ways, while also earning college credits, if they wish, at greatly reduced college-tuition costs. 

Business teacher Joan McGrath said this week that students wishing to take a business course at Guilderland for college credit can do so for $60 per credit, or $240 for a class, a significant savings over what it would cost at many colleges. This “breaks down to real dollars for the student and the family,” she said. 

Students can earn up to 22 college credits while at Guilderland, McGrath said, which is the equivalent of a college semester. This can provide them with the leeway to major in one subject and minor in another, to graduate early, or perhaps complete a semester abroad. 

Guilderland students can earn up to six credits in marketing and up to 19 in business management; the maximum for accounting is 13. 

These courses are open to anyone. The course in personal financial literacy fulfills the economics requirement at Guilderland, the board heard. 

Seniors at Guilderland may also complete an unpaid internship through the Career Exploration Internship Program, allowing them to find out whether a particular field is right for them or not before investing a lot of time and money studying it, the teachers said.

The teachers are willing to try to set up an internship in any field, they said, including fields new to them, by making cold calls when necessary, and explaining how an internship can benefit not only the student but also the organization. They did this for Ganapathiraju, who wanted to do an internship in medicine.

One current Guilderland High School intern is doing social-media marketing for a local small business, the board heard. Two years ago, a student did an internship in cybersecurity and went on to pursue that field because of his experience.

Opportunities to test new careers and to learn about personal finance start even before high school, the board heard. Farnsworth Middle School students already have an opportunity to do a day of job shadowing, as part of their study of introductory job and career awareness in Family and Consumer Sciences. In FACS classes, which are required for all students, they are also introduced to personal financial literacy with budget simulation. 

At the high-school Pathways Fair, students will learn about what pathways exist and also what individual courses, including a senior-year internship, might benefit them. 

For instance, Elliott said this week, a student whose greatest interest is English literature might want to consider a course in graphic design. “It’s expected now that people be fluent in visual language when they’re making presentations,” she said. 

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