VALDOSTA -- Kathy Backes, a senior at Lowndes High School, is just one of several students participating in the school's Teacher Apprenticeship program.

Backes works in Elizabeth Gay's second grade class at Parker Mathis Elementary School.

"Participating in this program has definitely made me want to pursue a teaching career even more than I wanted to before," Backes said.

While at the elementary school, Backes shadows Gay, teaches various lessons, and grades papers.

"I just do whatever she needs me to do," she said.

Backes got involved in the apprenticeship program during the second part of her junior year. This is her first year in the classroom.

After graduation, Backes said she plans to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education at Valdosta State University and has already been awarded $1,500 in scholarships to put toward her endeavor -- a local Phi Delta Kappa scholarship for $500 and an international Phi Delta Kappa scholarship for $1,000.

Phi Delta Kappa is an organization composed of outstanding men and women in education.

"The apprenticeship program has been very beneficial for me," Backes said. "It is a wonderful program, and I encourage others to participate. This program helped me discover in high school what I want and do not want to do with the rest of my life."

Before working in the field of education, Backes tried to hand in medicine, working as a physician's shadow at a local pediatric practice.

"I have always loved being around and working with children," Backes said. "All my life, I have either wanted to be a pediatrician or a teacher. Thanks to these programs I know that I definitely do not want to go into medicine. I know that I prefer helping the students and getting to know them."

To qualify for the teacher apprenticeship, Backes had to maintain at least an 85 average on the college preparatory track, complete an introduction to teaching class, and be recommended for the program by three teachers.

Anglia Webb-Crosby, youth apprenticeship coordinator, said, "At this time, the county is paying them. If they complete these requirements and log 400 hours of contact time in the schools, they receive credit at VSU for their first education class."

Those students who wish to participate in the physician's shadowing program must maintain a 90 average on the college preparatory track and be recommended for the program by three teachers.

Webb Crosby said, "Students shadow physicians for 20 hours in the Medical College of Georgia's Physician Outreach Program. Students are then placed with medical personnel in areas specefic to their interests for the remainder of the semester."

An option for those students pursuing a vocational seal on their diploma is the basic youth apprenticeship.

All juniors and seniors on track for graduation are eligible to participate in these programs.

"On average, I have about 300 students each year," Webb-Crosby said. "The goal of the program is to give the students some 'real world' experience in the career field they have chosen. That way they get the opportunity to acquire skills that will help make them better employees and they get useful information that will help them make more informed decisions about their future career."

For more information, please contact Anglia Webb-Crosby, Youth Apprenticeship coordinator, at 245-2260.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.



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