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AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LEARNING OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

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It started in 1993 as an idea to expose teenage girls to the workplace, observe career options and build self confidence.  From that year until 2002, 71 million American adults participated in the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Take Our Daughters To Work® Day.  In 2003, the program evolved to include boys, as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day, observed on the fourth Thursday in April. The chance for kids to see what their parents actually do at the workplace falls on April 24th this year.


    Not all employers participate in this event.  For those that do, the level and structure of observance varies a great deal.  Some companies have formal, planned events for the visiting children, or special plant tours.  Some companies host fun and educational activities, while other firms simply have children assist their parents during the day. 

    Diane Randall, iVillage Pregnancy and Parenting Channel Director, has heard from parents who have participated in a take your child to work program.

    "For those who can do it, it can be a wonderful thing, and it’s especially nice when employers take the time to make it a real experience for the kids. I’ve been to offices that developed all-day programs, tours, and hands-on workshops for the young visitors. That’s the kind of experience that has the power to encourage your child’s career interests, to open her mind to all the possibilities, and to give her real insight into you, the role you play outside the home and the many ways your job role affects your role as a mom.  One of our iVillage moms took her college-aged son to her job as a special-needs aide and he not only became a volunteer for the rest of the year, but he also came to realize that what she does is stressful, challenging – and important. Another mom told us that her child was able to witness the frustration of the workplace. She said that if nothing else came out of her child’s experience, she did come home with an understanding of why mom was so grumpy at the end of the day!"

    “Unfortunately, due to the nature of their jobs, some parents just can’t participate. Some say their employers forbid it, viewing it as a distraction or a liability. For others, it simply isn’t practical because of safety issues.”

    Vesna Vasic and Lindsay Camilo, both employed in Human Resources for Marks Paneth & Shron LLP, have a unique perspective on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  They coordinate the program for their company, a public accounting firm headquartered in Manhattan, with 500 employees in the New York area.  This is the third year for the program, which the company takes quite seriously. Vasic and Camilo establish the day’s program, send invitations to parents, recruit volunteers to participate and conduct presentations, purchase giveaway gifts, and conduct morning ice-breakers with the children.

    “We lean towards the formal side to ensure that children really get a fun, educational experience outside of the classroom. It's a great time for them to start thinking about their futures, and to introduce them to opportunities they may not have considered otherwise,” says Vasic. “We try to introduce something new each year to keep the interest of children who are returning for a second or third time.  Past activities have included “Accounting Bingo”, a check writing session run by Payroll, creating magazine advertisements with Marketing, writing a resume with Human Resources, office tours.

    Interest in the program seems to be growing.  In the first year, thirty employees participated.  “In 2007, we had over fifty children visit and we hope that number will grow in 2008,” says Vasic.  They do not encourage children under five to attend because reading the materials and following along is difficult for them.  They have gotten wonderful feedback from parents and children.  “A few employees told us it was great for their kids to finally see where mom and dad go each day after they drop them off at school.”

    Vasic’s advice for parents is, “Take advantage of the opportunity if your company offers it.  Your children will have fun interacting with professionals and children outside of their usual peer group.  And, the day provides an alternative learning experience that they'll likely remember.”

    Sara Rabi of Boro Park, a Certified Public Accountant and Senior Manager at Marks Paneth & Shron LLP and the mother of an eleven-year-old boy and twelve-year-old twin boys, will be taking her sons to work again on the 24th.   According to Rabi, her sons really enjoyed the day and look forward to coming back each year. “Not enough people observe this holiday. Many don’t realize how educational and fun this is for kids…and their parents. As parents we often put a focus on ‘getting to know’ our kids. Bringing our kids to work, showing them what it is that we spend our day doing, helps them to ‘get to know’ us, something that is often overlooked in how we build our relationship with our children,” she says.

    Palma Ventura-Riggio, of Bensonhurst, a Certified Public Accountant and Manager also at the company, and the mother of nine-year-old Pietro and ten-month-old Gianna, will be bringing her son back. “My son loved it,” she says. “The children were greeted with breakfast, received a filled backpack and their own business cards.  Pietro made new friends, experienced working in an office, and enjoyed learning how to write checks.  Most people don’t observe this holiday with their kids, and it is important because it exposes kids to what a parent does at work, and shows how parents are able to balance their work and family life.  Finally, it shows the kids how important school is for their success in the future.”

    Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day is an opportunity to address the competing challenges of work and family, and to help create a future in which girls and boys can participate fully in family, work, and community.  For more information, consult the program’s official website, www.DaughtersandSonstoWork.org, for educational activities, merchandise, and advice on how to plan the day.

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