More than two dozen professionally dressed, career-minded Baldwin High School students paired off with professors and program heads at Hofstra University during the school’s 20th annual Shadow Day Program on March 15.
Every year, Baldwin High sends about 25 sophomores and juniors to Hofstra. The students are chosen based on their educational and career interests. Participants get a real sense of what it’s like to be a college student. They sit in classes, meet professors and chat with students.
“I actually had a lot of fun,” Hosam Badawi, a Baldwin High School junior, said. “It’s a new experience from what high school is like; everything is different.”
As much as he enjoyed the day, he found out that college isn’t all fun and games. “It was really interesting,” he said. “I liked it, but at the same time … it could feel uncomfortable sometimes.” He noted that college students must walk from building to building for classes and have big, long-term projects.
“I think the program is lovely,” said Erica Coleman, a Baldwin High sophomore who observed Hofstra’s Lindner-Goldberg Child Care Institute.
“They should keep it going as long as they can,” Erica said, “because it’s really helpful for kids who like certain programs they’re doing in school. It really shows them what the future could look like.”
“We’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s always great. It’s always a good experience,” said Donna Tudda, the Child Care Institute director.
She has helped lead the Shadow Day Program since it started in 1998. “It really gives high school students a hands-on experience,” she said.
“Seeing the Shadow Day kids come as sophomores or juniors, you can see [many of them] are on the fence about what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” Tudda said. “But actually having them come on to a college campus and see that there’s much more than what you see in high school, that it’s much bigger and much grander, I think it’s a really great experience for them to see it first-hand.”
This year, 10 Baldwin students attended classes at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra-Northwell, six at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, five at the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and three at the Child Care Institute. One spent time at the Hofstra University bookstore.
“We’re not really showing them Hofstra; they’re supposed to be shadowing a professor at their job today,” said Dr. Mauro Caputi, associate professor of engineering. He emphasized that the point of the Shadow Day was not to recruit students to Hofstra, but rather to help them gain a better idea of what they want to do later in life.
“Part of it is teaching; another part of it is touring the laboratories, allowing them to ask questions to explore their interests in engineering,” he said.
The students taking part in the engineering program had to collectively decide on, design and create a logo according to certain specifications, using provided materials. The assignment is usually reserved for first-year engineering students, according to Caputi.
“It’s really, really important that they know about not just the design process, which they really wouldn’t get anywhere else until their senior year, but the teamwork and communication.,” he said.
Students in the medical program gained experience working alongside their groups on assignments that forced them to think outside of the box.
Joanne Willey, chairwoman of the Science Education Department, showed a video describing the cholera outbreak that is still affecting many in Haiti, and posed a challenge to the students to consider the issue from multiple different perspectives and offer potential solutions or responses to the disaster.
The engineering students split into five groups, and each one had to come up with a question or goal as to what they would want to pursue if they were in charge of tackling an epidemic in Haiti. The students were grouped together in different areas of focus, such as microbiology, public infrastructure and epidemiology.
“The point was to get them to think more broadly about careers in healthcare,” Willey said.
She praised the Baldwin students, remarking on their enthusiasm and professional behavior throughout the day. “They’re smart,” she said. “They asked great questions, and they had creative ideas and worked with each other really well, so I just couldn’t be happier.”