Grown-ups reflect on their ‘going-to-work day’

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Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day – on April 27 this year -started in 1993 for girls and broadened to include boys in 2003. The creator, New York-based Ms. Foundation for Women, promotes the program as a chance for youth to consider their futures. Now countless early participants are working themselves, and they reflect on the day’s significance.

Sabrina Vanore, 27, of Hillsborough, N.J., thinks it was sophomore year in high school when she went to work with her dad, a certified public accountant then employed with a restaurant company.

“All I can remember was feeling like my dad was really important at work,” she recalled. “Everyone kept coming in to ask him questions, and he had a lot of meetings and conference calls. That was something that I never really realized at home.”

Vanore said she never felt that day had a big impact on her life, but now she thinks it’s possible. Check out her job: She supervises internal audits for the real estate division of a multinational corporation. And, she’s studying to be a certified public accountant.

Tavie Phillips, 26, of Jersey City, N.J., hopes to avoid her dad’s career path. In ninth grade, she watched him at the government office where he worked as a senior clerk.

“So dull, so boring – it definitely made me see that I didn’t want to be a civil servant,” she said.

But she finds herself in a job she finds dull, too. She’s assistant manager of a data entry department for an employment screening company.

“I’m sort of tooling along with this boring job, trying to figure out what I’m going to do, and part of me thinks about my dad doing the same sort of boring thing, and ending up doing it for 30 years,” she said.

“I don’t want to do that, but at the same time, he had his family. His life wasn’t about his work, it was about us; and that’s not so bad, either.”

LaWanda Abel, Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day program manager, said the day teaches children to recognize work, family and community connections.

“It’s not just about career,” Abel said. “It’s about looking at all aspects of your life. It’s about balance.”

Though the day is intended for children aged 8 to 12, youngsters outside that range have taken part.

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day happens yearly on the fourth Thursday in April. For details: www.daughtersandsonstowork.org.

Former participants say seeing their parents at work instilled a newfound respect, more poignant now that they fend for themselves.

Melissa Larson, 24, of Casey, Iowa, said of her maintenance mechanic dad: “I realized that he really worked hard to give our family whatever we needed.”

Larson, an accounting assistant for a communications company, said she had a blast as a pre-teen with her father at his old job at the Des Moines airport. She listened to the radio traffic in the control tower, roamed the terminals and rode a truck on the runways.

That’s the kind of experience children of office workers envied.

Kathy Cacace earned “some serious fifth-grade cred” when she told her classmates she’d be spending a work day with her dad, then a firefighter. The outing wasn’t the fun she expected, though. She remembers scrubbing a fire engine while her dad and other on-duty firefighters lounged in lawn chairs drinking iced tea.

“I think I figured it would be more like a class, like a school filmstrip version of what it was like to be a firefighter,” said Cacace, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., an editorial assistant at a scientific book publishing house. “You know, like I’d get the tour, see the equipment, it wouldn’t take more than half an hour and then it would be snack time.”

The firefighters soon made up for her hard labor: They practiced prying open the top of a smoking car.

“Watching a bunch of guys cut the roof of a car isn’t something you see every day,” she said, “and it isn’t something everyone’s dad can do.”

The day’s original emphasis introduced girls to such traditionally male domains.

Tricia Wong, 24, of Plainsboro, N.J., appreciated the girls-only focus.

She accompanied her parents to the pharmaceutical company where her father was a researcher and her mother worked in the production department. Wong was 9 or 10 the first time, and attended twice more.

“Not many females were involved in the pharmaceutical industry, or any science field,” said Wong, who today helps pharmaceutical companies with data management software.

“However, I realized that there were so many fields that were lacking male involvement, and I think it’s great that they changed the event to daughters and sons.”

Even before the Ms. Foundation for Women officially included boys, sons shared the day.

In middle school, Mike Wilson, 25, shadowed his grandfather, a pastor who oversaw several churches.

“I remember going to each church, helping him with some of his responsibilities, and him introducing everyone to me,” said Wilson, of Harrisburg, Pa., senior admissions counselor at a vocational school.

The experience “gave me more insight as to why my grandfather was so dedicated to his profession, and it made me want to do something where I could change the lives of others.”

(OPTIONAL TRIM FOLLOWS)

Witnessing real-world interactions gave young participants a glimpse of what was to come in their own adult lives.

Janet Rickun, 25, of Milwaukee, a membership director for a non-profit organization, spent the day with her mother, who was a secretary in the same middle school where Rickun was a student.

Rickun used the photocopier, checked in late students, answered the phone, helped monitor the lunchroom and otherwise watched her mother prioritize and handle difficult parents and students.

“It made me realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” Rickun said. “I always kept thinking that, “When I get older, I won’t have to deal with people telling me what to do.”‘

Not true.

“With each job, school or age, there will always be someone smarter, older or better than you telling you what to do,” Rickun said. “It is just how you decide to deal with it that makes the difference.”

LF/RB END MELENDEZ

(Michele M. Melendez can be contacted at michele.melendez(at)newhouse.com)

AP-NY-04-14-06 1632EDT

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