Shadows in their midst

Herald/SARAH MOORE KUSCHELL - Harker Heights High School student Melanie Bunkley, 16, talks with Capt. Lee Caufield, of the Killeen Police Department, at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center before heading out on Job Shadow Day on Wednesday.

By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

More than 100 students from the four Killeen Independent School District high schools arrived on buses at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center bright and early Wednesday morning for the city’s 12th annual participation in the national Ground Hog Job Shadow Day to learn something about how their dreams might match up with reality.

The activity locally is a cooperative project of the school district, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the city of Killeen. Key leaders include Heather Nusbaum of the GKCC staff, GKCC public education committee chairman Wayne Moore, city of Killeen youth programs specialist Sheri Watson and director of volunteer services Wildred Brewster, and the student activities directors of the four high schools: David Smith of Harker Heights, Bethany Fuller of Shoemaker, Sharryn Hall of Killeen High and Diana Wells of Ellison.

The idea is to pair students with adult professionals in their chosen fields to see how dreams match reality.

The day brought surprises for some. Some said their experiences confirmed their ambitions. Some changed them. A few said they filled out applications for future reference, and some seemed to get a real boost of encouragement to focus on their ambitions. Some went one or two at a time to small businesses. Larger groups went to bigger companies and government agencies including Darnall Army Medical Center and other places on Fort Hood, the Killeen Police Department and the Killeen Daily Herald.

“The kids absolutely loved it,” Hall said. “Some said they wanted to go back again, but the program specifies sophomores and juniors. The program gives them a chance to experience things they couldn’t otherwise and get a feel for where they’re going in life.”

She said students were selected by recommendation of teachers on the basis of leadership skills and the ability to benefit from the experience.

“Ground hogs” dropped their “shadows” off at their schools about 3 p.m., a change from previous years when buses picked them up at the civic center because earlier students complained they didn’t get enough time at the workplaces.

At KHS, Leah Bupp said her day with Killeen police sent her on a new career path. She had wanted to become an attorney specializing in criminal law, but all the crime-fighting demonstrations inspired her to become an investigator. Catherine Kupwin, also in her group, said, “It was a revelation to see that all the crime stuff you see on TV really exists, and it’s all around us.”

Another in the police group, Aaron Dallman, was interested mainly in music therapy. He said he got some ideas about how the therapy might be used to reverse the destructive tendencies of people otherwise headed for trouble.

Nathan Stone visited the Killeen Public Works Department and said he was surprised how much of the work involved customer service. Delvin Hill visited Central Texas College’s medical education facilities and then Darnall, also touring a veterinary clinic and Fort Hood’s horse barns. He said the day helped him form a “Plan B” about going through college in ROTC to launch a career.

Marvin Robinson, already looking favorably on the military, got to see a ceremony where everyone was saluting. Then he observed a lot of paperwork, but he was struck by the fact that when everyone had to go to work on machines, they went immediately. It inspired him further to go into aviation mechanics or avionics.

Patricia Haller felt favored to be able to tour psychiatric facilities at Darnall with a mental health counselor. She was intrigued by explanations of how drugs influence behavior and said it spurred her interest in the medical field.

Among the “ground hogs,” general manager Lisa Chappell of said she had a thank-you note from one of her “shadows” when she got home Wednesday because he and her son have after-school activities together.

“I’ve been participating for several years,” Chappell said. “This time we had two and put one in production and the other in sales. They actually produced a commercial. Then I took them to lunch and taught them about the importance of networking.

“They tend to think we just play all day, and we can prove to them where all the time goes.”

Kelly Barr, owner of Kidz Therapeze, also has been participating for a number of years. “They always have a good time,” she said. “The ones who stay interested in therapy usually come back to us to do the volunteer hours required between high school and therapy school.

“The program helps us remember when we were in high school trying to figure out what we wanted to do.”

The city officials serving as “ground hogs” gathered their “shadows” at the Civic and Conference Center to start the day with a PowerPoint presentation by city manager Connie Green giving an overview of the history of Killeen and its current size and complexity as a city of an estimated 117,000 with 1,179 municipal employees.

Other organizations participating included the U.S. Air Force, the Centex Barracudas, Bentina Homes, Cedar Crest Clinic, Central Family Dental, Crawford & Bowers Funeral Home, Central Texas College, Central Texas Council of Governments, Dillard’s, the HELP Center, Keller Williams Real Estate, Killeen Engineering, Killeen Veterinary Clinic, Metroplex Health System, Perry Office Plus, Pride Dentistry, Pure Essence, Sallie Mae Servicing Corp., Tarleton State University-Central Texas, Texas Veterans Commission, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Vive Les Arts and the Central Texas Workforce Centers.

The National Job Shadow Coalition, formed in 1998, includes America’s Promise, Junior Achievement, and the U.S. departments of education and labor.

The national title sponsor is Best Buy Children’s Foundation. Other sponsors are Cisco, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Society for Human Resource Management.

The first local Job Shadow Day was held in 1996 in Boston.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557

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