Cross-country career search: Tacoma teenager traveled far and wide to write the book on job-shadowing

Tomorrow is not only Groundhog Day, it is also National Job Shadow Day, a day when over one million students across the country participate in job shadow experiences as a way to gain business experience. Tacoma resident Sondra Clark wrote the book on job shadowing. She is the author several book, including “Cool Careers in Parks & Recreation,” which describes her experience shadowing different careers.

I recently met with Clark at Anne Wright School in Tacoma, where she is a Freshman, to discuss job shadowing, her volunteer work with children, and her experience writing books.

BOBBIE BRAN: How did you begin writing about job shadowing?

SONDRA CLARK: We took a trip around the U.S. in an R.V. for a year. While we were doing that, I sort of saw these people as different careers. I knew I wanted to find out more about them. I was twelve when I started the trip, and that’s kind of when I started thinking about what I wanted to do when I was older, when I grew up. I also saw a newspaper article that said a lot of young people wanted to be crime scene investigators because of the television show “C.S.I.” I wanted to let kids know that there is more out there than what you see on television. I had the opportunity to take a trip around the United States for a year. While we did that, I got to job-shadow people in a whole bunch of different careers.

BRAN: How many different jobs did you shadow?

CLARK: I shadowed 50 people. Twenty-five are in my book. There are a couple of other people and publications looking at the other twenty-five.

BRAN: What was your favorite job?

CLARK: Gosh, I shadowed so many incredible jobs. I would come out of every single one thinking, ‘I want to do this!’ It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite. One that was really fun to do was, of course, the Shamu trainer at Sea World. That was really exciting. I got to work with a shoe designer at Nike. It isn’t in the book, but it was really cool. I could see how much goes into getting a shoe out, and having to do all these different tests. That was pretty neat. I interviewed a therapeutic horseback rider trainer, which was something that I wanted to do for a long time. Not so much anymore, but that was one that I definitely liked doing.

BRAN: And you also volunteer around the community with children, right?

CLARK: I do a lot of volunteer work. I’m a spokesperson for a Christian relief organization called Childcare International. It is a non-denominational relief organization based in Bellingham, Washington, which is where my family just moved from last year. I have raised over $75,000 for them by speaking to different churches and organizations, and also traveling to Africa, Peru, and Mexico for them.

BRAN: Do you have a particular compassion toward helping children?

CLARK: Definitely. When I went to Africa I really felt there was a huge need. These kids had so much potential. If you just help them a little, they can really get there. We met one man in Kenya who was a child in the Childcare International program since he was about 10 years old. As he grew up, he came to the United States because he was fostered. He went to college in New York and now he is the head of all the Childcare International organizations in Kenya and Uganda. I think that if you help some of these kids you find they have great potential.

BRAN: What motivated you in the areas of arts and crafts?

CLARK: Well, when I asked my mom if I could write a book, the main thing she told me was to write about what I know. That’s really important for anyone who wants to write a book. I knew about arts and crafts and I had an interest in it.

BRAN: What was your family’s reason for going on that trip throughout the United States?

CLARK: It was initiated by my volunteer work. I wanted to go nationally and spread the world about childcare and the needs in Kenya and Uganda. I spoke to different churches about Childcare International. The rest of the time, I job-shadowed.

BRAN: How old were you when you went to Africa?

CLARK: I was 11 years old.

BRAN: Was it a big difference between how we live here and how they live there?

CLARK: Definitely. Nothing was the same. The first time we were there, I was in the car, the window was rolled down because it was hot, and a boy my own age came by asking for money. It was really scary to me. We went to one school and the teacher said, ‘Do you want to see our library?’ I said, ‘I would love to.’ So we went to his library and there was one shelf with books. He was so proud of it, and that was a lot for African standards. It was amazing to me that they could be so grateful for so little they have.

BRAN: Do you have anymore trips planned?

CLARK: We’re actually working on getting back to Africa soon. This summer we went to Peru. I’m also working on another book about ways that teenagers can be overall successful in what they do in school and in sports.