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Senior Externship: Connecting with Real-World Experiences

Witnessing a cerebral angiography procedure to find the specific location of a brain aneurysm first-hand from an operating room is not a typical day in the life of a high school senior. Nor is learning to develop and build Next Gen NASCARs, sitting in on a criminal preliminary hearing in district court, or meeting with the CEO of Ally Financial.

These are just some of the examples our seniors participated in as part of our Senior Externship Program, a one-day job shadowing and mentoring experience that exposes students to opportunities that match their interests and connects them to local employers and organizations. Since the program’s inception in 2017, we have partnered with 100+ area employers in 20 different industries. This year, 124 seniors were paired with 48 Charlotte-area employers, mostly current and past Country Day parents and alumni.

"The Senior Externship is a way for our students to engage in real-world experiences and connect them with our community members," said Assistant Dean of Students and Externship Coordinator Steve Wall. "Our parents, alumni, and friends of the school go out of their way to create meaningful, creative, and fun ways that our seniors can explore a profession and learn curiously outside the classroom walls. I am thankful that our community jumps at the chance to share their time, talents, and passion."

In Their Own Words

We asked several students to share their perspectives, what they learned, and how the externship experience will help with their college and future plans:

Sophia Saxonhouse ’23
Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery at Novant Health, Dr. Ziad Hage

“This experience was truly one of the most amazing and influential days of my life. My dream job is to be a neurosurgeon, and this just further confirmed how much I want to pursue a field in medicine and how I need to continue working hard. I watched four cerebral angiography procedures done in the Cath Lab and I got to scrub in on an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF). The highlight was watching the X-ray machine reconstruct the cerebrovascular structure of the brain from the angiography. The externship gives us a chance to see if our dream or prospective career field is right for us.”

Jeffrey Harrick ’23 and Shayna Strasser ’23
NASCAR Research and Development Center, Derek Thomas 

Derek Thomas, Country Day parent and senior director of analytics at NASCAR Research and Development Center said the response from his colleagues to create a day of learning for our students was overwhelming. They created opportunities for students to see science, technology, engineering, and math applied ‘in the real world.’ 

Shayna was surprised about how much goes on behind the scenes and the many different specialties that go into racing. “The highlight was the data and analytics lessons because I am a math nerd and was geeking over how interesting everything was! I realized there are so many individuals that share similar interests as I do and you don’t have to love racecars to be in the NASCAR business.”

Jeffrey plans to pursue a mechanical engineering degree in college and considered working in the automotive industry. “The externship gave me a better grasp of what engineers do on an everyday basis. It gave me a glimpse of what my future career may look like and what it’s like to work in a professional environment. It also allows us to form invaluable connections with employers that we can potentially contact in the future.”

Derek ThomasCountry Day parent and senior director of analytics at NASCAR Research and Development Center

After the externship, I had multiple colleagues tell me how impressed they were with how engaged the students were. Their professionalism and excellent questions made Charlotte Country Day School look good, and as a parent with two daughters in Middle School at Country Day, it made me deeply proud to be part of it. I’m excited about the opportunity they’ll have one day to explore their interests through the program!”

Adam Eligator ’23
Tin Fulton Walker and Owen, Melissa Owen

Adam met numerous important figures in the North Carolina judicial system, including Country Day alum Judge Frank Whitney ’78. Adam spent time at the district courthouse sitting in on sentencings and preliminary hearings for criminal cases and witnessed a jury being selected for an upcoming trial. “Government and politics are big interests of mine and my externship experience opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing law school after my undergraduate career concludes. The opportunity that Country Day seniors are presented with to shadow a friend of the school and experience a day with a profession in person is second to none. The externship establishes connections for the future, offers insight towards future scholastic pursuits, and allows seniors to demonstrate life skills in a professional setting, not to mention the amount of fun we have!

Annabelle Hernick ’23 
Children’s Theatre and Blumenthal Performing Arts  

Annabelle was fortunate to participate in two externships—one with Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and the other with Blumenthal Performing Arts working behind the scenes in technical theater, which she plans to pursue in college. “I was excited to work with professionals in my area of interest, whether I was shadowing the light and sound board operators, disassembling sets, moving platforms for an event, or checking over light designs, I feel like I came away understanding so much more about the industry of technical theater as a whole,” Annabelle said. The highlight of her experience was learning how to move items via a fly system and going on the fly rail in the Booth Theatre. “I never expected that after my externships I would have so many connections in the Charlotte theater community, and now I’m considering taking a summer internship with the Blumenthal! This is something I never would have even thought about if I hadn’t had access to the Country Day Externship Program.”

Michael Woodard ’23
Ally Financial

Michael and some of his peers spent the day at Ally Financial learning various aspects of the finance business. “Meeting with the CEO Jeff “JB” Brown was amazing and being able to ask him anything about his path and the company was an eye-opening experience. I learned that to become successful in a job, it takes curiosity and the ability to apply yourself and that in the corporate world, mistakes are necessary and required to grow. I am so thankful for the experience, and it helped a lot with my college decision process.”

River Derby ’23
Sun Counseling Wellness

River met with six different mental health counselors at Sun Counseling Wellness to learn about their career paths, education, and experiences. “I’m even more excited about my own future, both for college and my career, and I’m even more sure just how much I want to do what they do.”

Steve WallAssistant Dean of Students and Externship Coordinator

As our seniors begin looking towards their next step, they are also starting to grow their own network. Wherever they find themselves on their future path they know our community is here for them always. We hope when they become alums, they too will give back and share what they have learned along the way."

Thank you to these organizations for their partnership and participation:

Ally Financial Graper Harper Cosmetic Surgeon
Asana Partners Hatcher Law Group
Axios Haynes and Boone, LLP
Baird Private Wealth Management JLL
Bank of America K&L Gates
Bank of America Merrill Lynch Kim Brattain Media
Bank of America Securities Lucy Doswell Interiors
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center NASCAR Operations
BWC Orthodontics Novant Health
C Design Inc. OurBridge
Carolinas Center for Oral and Facial Surgery Plantation Animal Clinic
CBRE Premier Gynecology and Wellness
Center City Partners Queens University
Charlotte Family Housing Red Ventures
Charlotte Radiology Resident Culture Brewing Company
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte St. Aubin Law
Crown Castle  Sun Counseling Wellness
Dermatologic Surgery of the Carolinas Tin Fulton Walker and Owen
Dickens Mitchener Real Estate Tribek Properties
Dilworth Animal Hospital Truist Securities
District Court University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Founder Sport Group US Bank
Front Porch Financial Advisory Webb Orthodontics
Giordana Cycling Whitewater Middle School