HAMMOND — Fifteen students at Hammond Academy of Science and Technology School are getting an opportunity to test the waters regarding future careers.

The students are participating in the charter school's Professional Internship program, which calls for a high school senior to complete 70 hours at a work site and 15 classroom hours in a semester.

The program is one semester but can be extended to a second semester, giving the student nearly a year of experience. Teacher Mira Projovic supervises the program.

The teens begin the journey junior year by applying to be an intern, along with getting recommendation letters from two teachers. That's followed by an interview with school Principal Sean Egan before it's approved.

Seniors Victor Lopez and Marcus Mabry both work at the Hub in Hammond. An extension of the Hammond Innovation Center, the Hub of Innovation is an avenue for cultivating business and job creation through small-business development. Other students work at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Hammond and other local businesses.

Lopez said he is interested in international business, and wanted to find out what the Hub does. Working with Hub Director Sue Anderson, he developed a project where he looked at what kinds of opportunities were available for Hammond companies to connect with international businesses.

He put together a Power Point presentation on international business and how it could benefit businesses in Northwest Indiana.

"I did a lot of research," he said, adding he used the Internet to find inexpensive shipping rates and other resources for small businesses. "I don't think it's that hard to connect with an international business." 

He noted international business is a growing sector.

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"You can't look at other countries as a single unit; you have to see the world globally," he said. "The more I've learned, the more I know I intend to pursue this as a career."

Mabry is interested in politics. He spent his semester interviewing politicians in the city of Hammond, including Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., McDermott's chief of staff Mark McLaughlin, Economic Development Director Africa Tarver, and City Councilwoman Janet Venecz.

"I know that Africa (Tarver)'s job is to recruit and retain business to create more jobs in this community. I know the mayor wants to make the city a more attractive place to live."

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Mabry plans to major in psychology rather than political science. He said psychology will give him more information about how the mind works.

"My interviews taught me about what people do behind the scenes," he said. "Politics isn't just a bunch of people lying and trying to manipulate others. It's about using the knowledge and connections to benefit the city."

The Hub's director Anderson said this is the third year she has worked with HAST students. She said students from the School City of Hammond also do internships. She said two HAST interns -- Molly Musgraves and Jasmine Bastardo -- used the 3-D printer to create a prosthetic hand.

Five HAST seniors are at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Hammond.

Sharon Malecha, manager of volunteers, said she has enjoyed working with the teens who have been a great help. She said the four girls were assigned to the education department and put together folders for orientation and filled supplies for patient rooms and ran errands for the unit.

"The young man worked as a hospitality host and he came in at 5 a.m. when the lobby opened," she said. "It's been wonderful to have the students."

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