Beyond the Classroom: Students take advantage of summer pursuits

The students, faculty, and staff at Polytechnic School have always been encouraged to actively engage in the quest for knowledge, and at the heart of our philosophy is the belief that activities beyond the classroom are integral to the educational experience at Poly. For many, the summer months provide a respite from the busy academic year and set the stage for such pursuits.

“Summer opportunities of all sorts offer students the time and place to focus on a field they would like to explore further or the chance to immerse themselves in an activity with unfettered enthusiasm,” says Garine Zetlian, college counselor and junior/senior dean. “They may do something they are passionate about or discover something new that they like. The experiences the students gain from these opportunities are part and parcel of their personal growth and the expansion of their intellectual horizons.”

In addition to those students featured in the printed OakTree Times, the following students also shared their summer experiences:

Recent grad Robyn Lee ’18 participated in an number of summer opportunities during her time at Poly, including a Global Initiatives Program travel program to Dominica as part of Operation Wallecea, during which she was able to explore the island and work with wildlife, which fed her interest in the environment and biology. “Being surrounded by scientists who specialize in different aspects of biodiversity, watching them work, and helping with their surveys only made me want to become one of them in the future,” she says. “This trip gave me the kind of exposure to ecology to really spur on my interest and get me excited about the subject.” The following summer, Lee volunteered with Heal the Bay as an MPA (marine protected area) Watch, recording data as a citizen scientist. “For me, it’s a small step toward the work I want to do in the future.”

Senior Shivani Chatterjee wanted to gain research experience in the field of neuroscience and found an opportunity close to home in the Adolphs Lab at Caltech, which studies the neural underpinnings of human social behavior. “I think it's outrageous and fantastic that little bundles of neurons are responsible for the entirety of human complexity,” she says. “Being in the Adolphs Lab is a great opportunity to explore the nuances of that complexity — finding the mechanisms behind emotion and social interactions combines my passion for both the sciences and the humanities.”

Senior Nick Wuthrich took on something a little farther away: He was a stagiare (intern) at an intellectual property law firm in Paris, France. “The subject intrigues me because it simultaneously involves the dark art of law and the familiar language of Hollywood cinema,” he says. Aside from dramatically improving his French-speaking skills, he also found that the experience piqued his interest not only in the field of law, but also in a possible profession overseas: “Because of the magnificent experiences this program provided, my thought process is a little more cosmopolitan. If I do obtain a degree in law, I might just consider working overseas.”

Senior Justin Hogan interned for Premier Nutrition in Emeryville, Calif., as a way to learn more about finance, the profession his mother has been in for more than 20 years. What he discovered is that finance is about more than just numbers: "This internship has taught me a lot more about communication. Finance people work with data drawn from a wide variety of people, and I've learned that context is so important.” His time at Premier also provided Hogan an opportunity to stretch himself. “While I am and have been comfortable interacting with adults, I had to adjust to being surrounded by people who are very knowledgeable about communicating, the company, and their jobs. This environment creates expectations for how people interact and has pushed me to provide context, understand the company, and learn the job so that I can meet those expectations.”

Senior Elizabeth Shepherd has channeled her desire to help others through programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Higher Ground, a nonprofit organization in Ketchum, Idaho, that offers a recreational program for children with developmental disabilities. Camp CHLA provides a five-day program where students can shadow health care professionals, participate in skills labs, and gain exposure to various medical career paths. At CHLA, she was pushed outside of her comfort zone as she witnessed children receiving treatment for serious illnesses, including a child on an ECMO machine, but she felt the experience she gained was worth the unease. Shepherd was more familiar with her role at Higher Ground, having worked in the past with children with developmental disabilities. She enjoyed supervising the children during activities such as fly fishing, visiting waterfalls, and swimming in the lake. She felt her biggest challenge was allowing them freedom to do what they wanted while also ensuring their safety.

Senior Anna Hackel spent her summer as an intern Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Public Engagement, which she says had a profound impact: “I have always loved community service, and with this internship, I have realized a way to pursue it as a career … It has helped guide a long-time interest and has shown me a clear path that I could follow.” Through her work with area representatives and fellow interns, Hackel says she learned about planning and launching events, as well as how to design (and redesign) project proposals. She shares, “I had the chance to see the inner workings of City Hall, take part in meetings with different offices, and help collaborate on real projects they hope to launch. It’s been amazing!”
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