The high school job is an age-old rite of passage. This first job usually isn’t easy or glamorous. It’s a challenge.
From child care to building neural networks, many Country Day students spent this summer exploring many different sectors of the workforce.
Senior Nihal Gulati virtually interned at the UC Davis Future Mobility Lab. Gulati spent the whole summer working with Ph.D. student Trevor Vidano in writing a chapter on safety products in consumer vehicles.
Vidano is a control engineer, whose work centers around creating the underlying control systems in motors. Gulati spent most of his time working asynchronously, sometimes in virtual calls with Vidano.
Gulati is the self-proclaimed “Tech Lord of the Octagon” and interned at the Future Mobility Lab to train his interest in coding, artificial intelligence and constructing neural networks.
Gulati secured this opportunity as a result of going to the Future Mobility Lab with his father multiple times. The Gulati family also has an existing relationship with the head of the lab Dr. Francis Assadian.
Gulati’s first task for the chapter was to compile a comprehensive catalog of existing safety systems in cars.
Gulati was initially planning on manually going through hundreds of pages of automobile websites.
He recognized that this would take an absurd amount of time, so he designed a web scraper that automated a system to parse web pages for the data he was seeking.
Their primary goal was to teach an artificial intelligence program to handle evasive maneuvers for a car through a process called reinforcement learning.
The learning process mirrors classical conditioning. Each time the program creates a favorable outcome it is awarded what Gulati described as a “good big number”.
Gulati enjoyed the process, even though it was rigorous.
“I was working a lot on stuff Trevor gave me on my own. The web scraper took me like eight hours a day,” Gulati said. “That was three intense weeks of work, for the reinforcement learning program, it was eight hours a day for about two weeks.”
With a more classic example of the high-school summer job, Zoe Genetos worked as a counselor for Camp Davis, a series of half-day camps sponsored by the City of Davis.
Genetos went to the same camps when she was younger and always loved the Kids in the Kitchen, cooking camps. Genetos applied to be a counselor there and subsequently spent eight weeks teaching the children of Davis.
Before starting, Genetos needed a battery of certifications.
“I needed to get CPR certified, first aid certified and then I went through some seminars to help me identify child abuse,” she said.
The day-to-day was simple. Genetos started each day with an hour and a half in the kitchen, guiding and teaching how to cook meals like crepes, victorian sponge cake, and apple crumbles and then led games in the afternoon. They focused on themes ranging from something as simple as breakfast to the Olympics Games.
Genetos worked with two age groups, alternating weeks with 7 to 10-year-olds and 10 to 13-year-olds.
Genetos was lucky enough to work with a friend. Former Country Day student Lily Schroeder worked at Camp Davis and carpooled with Genetos on the trip to Davis.
Genetos enjoyed the work, its flexible hours and the fact that she worked half-day shifts.
“I still had evenings and the weekends to hang out with friends,” Genetos said. “I don’t feel like I really lost my summer.”
This wasn’t the only work that kept Genetos busy this summer.
Through her mother, who has a family friend at UC Davis, Genetos has been volunteering at COVID-19 vaccine/testing sites in Davis to help manage supplies, testing groups and contacts. Genetos works a full shift most Saturdays and Sundays.
“I spend most of my time organizing needles and testing swabs by their dates and expiration dates and tests,” Genetos said. “I also manage groups of people as they wait for the vaccine and are observed before they are able to leave. Soon, when booster clinics start opening up, I’ll be busy managing them.”
Senior Miles Morrow worked in the world of food service this summer.
Morrow has been working at the newly established Slim and Husky’s in downtown Sacramento since they opened nearly a year ago.
Morrow is working on balancing the weight of a rigorous senior class load with continuing to work, and Slim and Husky’s has been able to support his busy schedule.
“They’ve made me feel really welcome, and I really appreciate everyone I work with,” Morrow said. “They’ve made it feel like a family. I want to keep working here until I move for college.”
Morrow said the job has given him experience in a fast-paced workplace. He described himself as a jack-of-all-trades, handling bussing, dishwashing and food prep in cycles.
As the school year has started to gear up, he has been able to maintain his schedule of two four-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.
Morrow is hardly ever seen not wearing his Slim and Husky’s merchandise.
Junior Ryan Paul used his summer to explore a possible career path by participating in a virtual unpaid internship with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Paul, who just started the Economics Club, applied for the internship when he was still living in Singapore. Paul has been fascinated with economics and plans to pursue finance in his professional life.
“I looked online for internships, and I came across the Federal Department of Treasury,” Paul said. “My parents didn’t know. I went through everything by myself, and when we got here right before school, I told them. They had no clue. Of course, when I got it I told them, and they were happy.”
Paul works about an hour each day after school and during his free periods and two hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Paul’s work right now involves an internal survey. He mainly interfaces with a representative from the Treasury to improve the working environments of Treasury employees. Paul is the youngest intern on staff in this nationwide program.
Also combining a summer job and a learning experience, junior Simone DeBerry got to explore her interest in teaching through her position as an educator and adviser for Breakthrough Sacramento.
DeBerry, the youngest educator on staff, applied for the salaried position at Breakthrough after volunteering for the majority of the 2020-21 school year as a teacher’s assistant for a Sacramento elementary school.
DeBerry worked in the science department and was responsible for curating and creating lesson plans as well as teaching.
“The directors provided us with a list of topics we needed to cover, but outside of that we created everything else from scratch.”
DeBerry appreciated getting a taste of teaching and liked the challenge of helping young learners overcome their issues in class and learning as a whole.
“I don’t think I’ll return to Breakthrough, but the opportunity let me explore academia and has supported my interest in high academia as a profession in my future,” DeBerry said.
DeBerry described the challenging experience of a first-time job and how she was able to find fulfillment in the work.
“I thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with students and getting to push myself to test my own capabilities in a setting where it wasn’t rigidly graded,” DeBerry said. “I was able to push myself just for the sake of bettering myself.”
— By Adam Akins
Originally published in the Oct. 27 edition of the Octagon.