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BHS alumna preps for New York Marathon

Young architect raising money for cancer research

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Leanne Zick, a Baldwin High School alumna, is preparing to run the New York City Marathon on Sunday to raise money for cancer research with a team of colleagues from her employer, Perkins Eastman — where she was placed via the high school’s internship course eight years ago.

An associate designer at Perkins Eastman, an architecture firm in Manhattan, Zick, 26, started working there when Gregg Kelley, a BHS business teacher and the senior internship coordinator, placed her there for her senior year internship. This weekend she will run as part of the company’s Fred’s Team to raise funds for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

It’s a cause that is close to her heart. Like many, she has a lost loved one to cancer. Her goal is to raise $3,500 for Fred’s Team, and as the Herald went to press on Monday, she was just $300 short of that total. She has until Nov. 18 to complete her fundraising, but donations can be made until the end of the year, Zick said.

“I’ve always been the kind of a runner to stay in shape rather than a competitive runner,” Zick said, “but I started training in June. You build up your mileage little by little, week by week until you hit the maximum, which is a 20-mile training run.”

It would be her first marathon — she hadn’t even run a half-marathon before she started training. She ran one semester of cross-country in college, taking part in a few 6K races, which she said are much shorter than the New York City Marathon’s 26.2 miles. Last month, though, during her training, she completed her first half-marathon.

“When I started training, it’s hard to wrap your head around the scale of the distance you have to cover, and when you train, you realize it’s actually attainable, and it becomes not as daunting of a task,” she explained. “At the beginning, you’re like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ and then it becomes possible in your head. As pedestrians, you don’t even realize what 26 miles is on foot.”

She said she’s nervous but also excited about the challenge. “The reason I signed up without ever running a half before this was because it was a big enough challenge,” Zick said, “and I wanted to push that boundary that I had in my head.”

Zick graduated from Baldwin High School in 2011 as one of the top five students and went on to earn a Bachelor of Architecture from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York and the Macauly Honors College. She is now a licensed architect in New York state.

And her high school internship at Perkins Eastman turned into a full-time position. She interned for the company throughout her time at college, spending summers and winters working there, and occasionally worked part-time during a few semesters. It was a prime opportunity that allowed her to pursue her dream job. When she was little, she wrote in her Steele Elementary School yearbook that she wanted to be an architect when she grew up.

“It’s pretty invaluable, the fact that I have a job that I’ve been at for eight years — three years full-time and five years part-time from that program and from the connections I made with that program,” Zick said of BHS’s internship course.

“As a parent with a child going to college, it was wonderful because after the senior internship, they kept her,” Grace Zick, Leanne’s mother, said. “She was able to have a really meaningful way of working her way through college and then was employed with them when she graduated from college in 2016. It all came from senior year of high school, so, to me, that’s amazing, and BHS should definitely promote that. I think that’s pretty cool.”

There are many other instances of BHS students landing full-time jobs as a result of the internship program, Kelley said. “She’s not the only story that we have like that — there’s other students that took an internship and turned it into a job or turned it into places they’re still working,” Kelley said. “We have a lot of stories like that and it’s amazing.”

The senior internship class is a highly competitive course scheduled for the last period of the school day, Kelley explained, in which students build their work resumes, practice writing cover letters and reference sheets, and hone their interview skills. Students prepare for internship experiences and learn about different careers and the necessary skills and education, job outlooks, salaries and major employers in various industries.

After much research to find a good fit for her, Zick and Kelley took a trip to the city to check out Perkins Eastman. “They were impressed with Leanne,” Kelley said. “She’s just an impressive young lady. She’s the whole package. She was athletic, intelligent, academic, has a personality on her. She’s one of Baldwin’s finest.”

The class requirement was to complete 80 hours of experience outside the classroom, and Zick went well over it.

“It reaffirms, for me, that the experience Baldwin High School is providing students is preparing them for the real world and offering them opportunities to be successful after they graduate high school,” Kelley said, crediting Pat Van Hazel for starting the program many years ago. Kelley, Jenn Raleigh and Michele Leonardo are the district’s current senior internship coordinators.

Every Friday, all the high school teachers wear jeans and shirts that match a different cause to raise money for charities. Last Friday, teachers wore blue shirts to support Zick and raised money to donate to her cause.

To contribute to Zick’s fundraising goal, visit bit.ly/2q10sEK.

“You’re doing some good in the world and you’re fulfilling your own personal bucket list of doing the marathon,” Grace said. “And we’ve had a close family member who passed away from cancer, so it all came together to say I could raise money for cancer research and reach this personal goal, and it’s just exciting.”

Zick, who is now working on K-12, higher education and cultural projects at Perkins Eastman, was balancing her responsibilities with her training schedule until the big day.