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Will work for experience

Young people enter the world of carnivores, fish, lawyers and families for rewards beyond money.

Published August 11, 2006

Many students spend their summers getting their feet wet in different careers before diving into the real world. They take on jobs and internships to boost their skills and figure out their interests. The St. Petersburg Times found four interns working this summer in various professions, from religion to zoology. Here are their stories.

* * *

The Harris' hawk swooped over the crowd at Lowry Park Zoo and landed on 14-year-old Sophia Farkas' arm, wowing children in the audience.

Sophia is one of 27 Zoo Crew Explorers, teenagers who volunteer at the zoo during the summer.

"A lot of people tell me how lucky I am to be working here," she said.

Sophia helps the instructor of the Birds of Prey Show carry and call the birds.

She started with the small birds, such as the screech owl, and worked her way to bigger ones, like the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the red-tailed hawk.

When the show is over, Sophia brings the birds back to the stage, and she and the instructor answer questions from the audience.

She does some dirty work, too, like cleaning cages and feeding the birds rat legs when she calls them.

Sophia, who is homeschooled in Odessa, has always been an animal person but isn't sure yet what career to pursue.

Still, she's glad she got this summer gig.

"You don't normally get to handle hawks like that anywhere else," she said.

* * *

Most people do everything they can to avoid the smell of fish. Not April Redman.

The 22-year-old is a summer intern at the Florida Aquarium, cleaning tanks and preparing meals for fish.

"It's not the most glamorous job," she said. "I'm dirty, I sweat every day, but I wouldn't trade it for the world."

She feeds the stingrays, rat fish and octopuses. She also feeds starfish and other animals in the touch tank.

The hardest part of the job? Getting used to the mess.

"I'm kind of obsessive-compulsive, so I like getting things perfectly clean, but it's impossible," she said.

Redman, a senior at Michigan State University, is studying zoology and got the internship through her college adviser. She works 40 hours a week for college credit. The 10-week internship ends in mid August.

She has spent her summer doing exactly what she wants to do for the rest of her life.

"Playing with gross little things is kind of my thing," she said.

* * *

Katherine McFarland has spent her summer learning from some of the top dogs in the legal world.

The 23-year-old is an intern for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa. She researches and writes memos for assistant U.S. attorneys, who sometimes use her work in court.

When they have free time, the prosecutors share a bit of their wisdom.

She loves the 40-hour-a-week unpaid internship, despite the tight deadlines.

"You go up to turn in what you've written for an attorney and hope to God that you've answered their questions," she said.

While working in the criminal department, she has watched several trials, most of them involving drugs, guns and theft.

Afterward, she and the other interns talk about how they would have handled the case.

"It's kind of interesting to say what you would have done," said McFarland, who lives in Safety Harbor.

In the fall she will return to law school at the University of Florida, where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. Her 10-week internship ended July 21.

While McFarland enjoys media law, she said she will most likely become a state prosecutor after she graduates and passes the Bar exam.

* * *

Trips to the hospital are seldom easy, but this summer, Michelle Blume is doing her best to provide support for patients and their families.

"I've held people, stopped them from falling onto the ground," she said. "People cry on my shoulder."

Blume, 24, is an intern for the pastoral care department at Tampa General Hospital, where she helps patients and their families cope with the trauma often associated with a hospital stay.

She spends mornings with patients talking, praying or just listening.

In the afternoons, she heads to the emergency room, where she teams up with doctors who have to deliver bad news.

"You develop an appreciation for trauma and the acuity of it," said Dr. Brent Kneeling, a general surgery resident who works with Blume.

After the doctors finish answering a family's questions, Blume keeps them company, just in case they need extra help.

"I thought it would be different because I'm just a stranger," she said. "But we really develop a bond with the families, and when they leave, it's like they're my friends leaving."

Blume, a seminary student at Duke University, lives at home in Carrollwood while she does her unpaid internship, which ends Aug. 18.

"It's incredibly rewarding," she said. "It's rocked my world."

[Last modified August 10, 2006, 09:03:36]

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