Hands-On Work Experience

Participants in the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day experience science and stardom.



By Barbara Melendez

USF News

n  With additional reporting from Nicole Dunleavy, Sydney Lehman, Kristen Ng, Anthony Santiago, Nick Santiago and Kristine Shahin.


TAMPA, Fla. (Apr. 28, 2011) – They met Rocky. And former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Lee Roy Selmon. And former Miss America Nicole Johnson.


And, when they weren’t hobnobbing with those famous folks, they spent some time learning about scientific studies, research projects, sports programs and how to create a business or smile in front of a camera at the Department of Mass Communications.


On Thursday, more than 230 children participated in the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the University of South Florida. The Bull Runner shuttled the children throughout the campus for stops along the route to meet faculty, staff and students for the 22 breakout sessions on a variety of projects as diverse as the university.


As 14-year-old Charles S. Rushe Middle School student Nicole Dunleavy reported, “A miniature town complete with a bus system, police force and over 10,000 residents has been crowded with children eight to 18 all day. Why?  Because today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. There are plenty of things to do at USF today for all the kids. And there is plenty to learn.”

St. Barnabas High School student Kristine Shahin, also 14, reported that, “Stephanie works in the Communications and Marketing department at USF.  USF is on a big campus that has its own housing and restaurants.”


Kristine, whose aunt is USF Human Resources Analyst Carol Shahin, and Nicole, whose father is Electrical Engineering Professor Lawrence Dunleavy, learned how to write a news story in the workshop presented by the USF Office of Communications and Marketing where, to get their story, they interviewed Stephanie Harff, the department’s associate director and chief of operations. 


Nick Santiago, another 14-year-old from Charles S. Rushe Middle School, whose mother is Maria Santiago, an administrative specialist in Neurology at USF Health, interviewed one of USF’s videographers:


“After six years in the circus working as a juggler’s assistant and riding elephants, Amy Mariani hangs up her circus clothes and moves to the University of South Florida,” he wrote, showing talent that is ready for prime time news. 


His brother, 16-year-old Anthony Santiago, a student at Sunlake High School, learned about being a photojournalist from USF photographer Aimee Blodgett and contributed a photograph for this story (see photo gallery). For his profile of Blodgett, Anthony wrote, “Aimee has been doing photography almost her whole life. She started getting into taking pictures when she was a kid. When she would go on vacation, Amy would use those pictures as a documentary. It started out as a hobby but soon turned into a career.”


The Santiago brothers could turn out to be quite a news team.


An 11-year-old, Kristen Ng from Wesley Chapel Elementary School, and daughter of Angela Ng, an advanced registered nurse practitioner in USF Student Health, interviewed USF’s new director of web services.  She provided a very informative profile.


“Kathleen Long used to live in California then Maryland and finally settled down in Florida,” Kristen wrote.  “She was once in Annapolis, Maryland and loved crab cakes and sushi.”


Sydney Lehman, daughter of Jason Lehman, an applications developer in Information Technology, learned from the same interview that, “Kathleen has no kids, nor pets, likes to run and her favorite color is purple. ‘It is very soothing, pretty and I love to wear it,’ Long recalls.”


Watch out People Magazine. USF Media/Public Affairs Manager Lara Wade was impressed with the students’ work.


“They caught on quickly and really grasped the idea of using the ‘who, what, when, why, where and how’ in writing their stories that they learned from news writer Barbara Melendez. Very impressive,” she said.


Later, Communications and Marketing hosted more youngsters. One group created ads with External Affairs Director Colleen Wyse and the last one posted items on USF’s Facebook page and tweeted under the guidance of Harff and UCM interns Nicholas Trobiano and Jenna Withrow.


More groups of children heard presentations by scientists who helped research and analyze the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and USF Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Heath and USF Women’s Soccer Coach Denise Schilte-Brown.


If their interests fell anywhere near the areas of anthropology, architecture, botany, robotics, geology, healthcare and medicine, nanotechnology, athletics, education, law enforcement, information technology, environmental health and safety, mass communications, public relations/marketing, catering and food services, TV & radio and music – the young visitors were in luck. All sessions were hands-on. For the full list, click here.   


Sydney, in addition to writing a news story also enjoyed a visit to the School of Music to hear a pianist and see several instruments up close and she met Miss America and learned about her battle with diabetes.


“Everything was really interesting,” Sydney said.  “And I really liked seeing where my father works.”


And she’s looking forward to coming back next year.