Passion Over Profit, What College Kids Are Doing

Students use summertime as a way to delve into their passions, not their pockets.

For some local college students home from school, summer is the time to pursue passions and not necessarily those of the romantic variety.

Patch visited local venues likely to harbor college students — nonprofits hungry for interns and seaside lifeguard stands — and despite the down economy, many young people in the area appeared to be working in areas that they love this summer.

Jessica Cambi of Norwalk, a soon-to-be sophomore at Reed College in Oregon, is spending her days at the , the national historic landmark at 295 West Avenue in Norwalk.

The art history major presides at the gift shop, the former kitchen, of the 65-room home built in chateauesque style in 1869, and as an intern she gets to peek into upstairs rooms that are off-limits to the public and really get to know the art hanging on the walls.

She's also looking forward to taking on a special summer project - selecting correspondence of Charlie Mathews (son of former owner Charles Mathews) for a late-summer exhibition.

"Growing up, I used to find Norwalk boring," Cambi said.

"It's actually not," she said emphatically.

The internship is unpaid and for pay Cambi doubles as a projectionist and ticket-seller at the .

Valerie Leone of Greenwich and Allison Bookbinder of New Canaan share a passion for the sea and marinelife.

They're both interning this summer at Norwalk's .

Leone, who's studying marine environment at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, is assigned to the Aquarium's Sound cruiser, the R/V Oceanic, which takes school groups and, during July and August, members of the public, out into the Sound for 2.5-hour excursions.

She's becoming an expert in the marine life netted en route for observation.

Leone recently participated in the annual horseshoe crab census at , when several hundred of the ancient species were captured, tagged and released in two sessions, at 4:45 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Participants wore head lamps to see in the dark and even took notes of which horseshoe crab was mating with which other crab for entry in a computer database.

(Leone also works for pay in the pro shop at the in Greenwich, participates in the Westchester Ultimate Disc Association twice a week and attends outdoor concerts in Stamford with friends.)

Bookbinder, entering her junior year at Colgate where she's majoring in biology and French, helped ready the Oceanic late in May (sanding, cleaning, painting) and will join daily cruises as part of the Aquarium's education staff.

"I like biology and I like kids, so why not?" she asked rhetorically. "This definitely is an adventure!"

John Petropoulos will be a junior in the fall at Loyola University majoring in biology and he's got the classic summer job: He's one of 12 lifeguards at in Westport.

After working as a Compo lifeguard for five years, this year he's been elevated to captain (two ranks below director).

"This is helping me train to be a leader, hopefully," Petropoloulos said during a break in his shift.

"I love it, being on the beach. I don't want it to end!" he said.

Michael Giunta of Westport is getting ready for his first year at college. Having just graduated from , he's heading to in Hamden to study to become a law enforcement officer.

He's spending the summer as a dock attendant at the where he's assigned to pump gas, sell ice, clean the deck and assist where needed.

"This experience is teaching me the people skills I'll need," he said.



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