Girls try out careers through activities

A handful of girls are seated in a classroom with magazines, scissors and glue sticks strewn all over the desks. They are learning about interior design.

Sixth-grader Naomi Skaggs is a "client," deciding how she wants to plan her ideal master bedroom and bathroom. She is working with a "designer," another student who will help her with the blueprints and models.

This is one of the selections in the internship program the Seattle Girls School, on the corner of South Jackson Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, organizes for its students.

Each Wednesday the middle-school girls spend the afternoon on an activity of their choosing. There is a multitude of options: Students can learn chess, study the environment, play jazz, do community service, work in a day-care center, practice photography, cook gourmet cuisine, write scripts, act or create a yearbook.


Head of school Maria Brandon thought of the program several years ago when the school first opened. The activities, like the school's classes, are hands-on. Brandon wanted her students to experience a range of hobbies and be able to "try a career that's not in the curriculum, in a real way. [The program] is like an apprenticeship, like a mini-course that's more intensive," she explained.

"For some students, the activity is not what they wanted," she added, "while others become interested in what they thought they would never be turned on by, what they never suspected."

Coordinator Sonya Haskins described how much the students look forward to this mid-week break. Girls like eighth-grader Erin Hanley jump up and greet us, eager to pull us into her project and share their experiences. Hanley is working in the Book-it program, in which the girls translate stories into scripts and act them out.

"Today," Hanley and her friend Chiloe Barrera-Cloyd explained, "we are assigning roles for our play. We chose the true story of 'The Three Little Pigs.' We're supposed to be learning our lines right now so we can perform at an elementary school later."

Giving of time

The school has three terms each year and two internship sessions during each. The girls may choose their own activities, but may only do each once. Ideas come from instructors, girls, parents and volunteers who are interested in teaching.

The program is funded through tuition money and fund raisers such as the annual auction in January and the Grace Hopper awards luncheon in May. The instructors are parents and community members who volunteer each week.

Haskins stresses the gratitude the school has for these helpers and their time. The Washington state "trick-roping" champion comes around to teach the fancy form of jump-roping.

Gourmet chefs welcome the students to their downtown restaurants to show them how to cook.

The entire Publicis advertising firm shut down to teach a few hours.

Officials at the King County Public Courthouse let the girls hold a mock trial in the building as a culmination to their law session.

One parent, Michael Dupille, runs one of the most popular internships: a glassblowing class. He is known locally and nationally for his work and owns a local gallery.

Most recently, he designed a set of mirrored benches as part of the World Trade Center memorial in New York City.

Organizers are always happy to get new volunteers who want to help.

"Anyone who has a passion they are dying to share is welcome," Brandon said, "but not anything too outrageous."

This term there will be, among others, sushi-making and "CSI: Seattle," based on the popular television series.

Judging by these and the variety of past programs, nothing is too strange.[[In-content Ad]]