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Internship at Hyperion Plant Combines Science and Work

May 30, 1996

Some students get to intern at television stations, others at Fortune 500 companies.

But a handful of students at El Segundo High School have a different but no less important internship at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey, where they learn to turn gas into energy and see sludge recycled.

The program, begun last year, takes students with backgrounds in science, biology and math and lets them spend 20 weeks working at the plant.

The six students enrolled in this semester's internship program spend five hours a week learning about one of the city's dirtiest jobs. When the program ends on June 11, they will receive five class credits.

Omar Khan, 17, working with chemist Dada Valiente, has been helping with water quality analysis. He monitors the acid level in test solutions that fathead minnows swim in to see if the effluent is toxic.

Khan also learned from the plant's microbiologists how to take water samples from Santa Monica Bay, an April day he and Valiente won't forget because they both got seasick.

"I'm interested in biology and math and in this program you get hands-on experience," said Khan, a junior. "I've learned how the Environmental Monitoring Division is important for our environment. I've learned what would happen if the EMD wasn't there and the effluent is dumped."

In the systems division, Ryan Henneberg, 17, has been learning to create a Web page about the treatment plant. During his weeks there, he has learned a whole new language called Hyper Test Mark-Up, used to write Web pages.

"This sounded fun," said Henneberg, who is contemplating becoming a computer engineer. "I thought I'd get real experience that school couldn't supply."

Kristie Weston, 17, is interning in the public relations department. Next year, she will be studying journalism at Penn State University.

The internship program began last year when Billie Jean Knight became the school's new principal. Her goal was to have students get more experience outside the classroom.

"I have believed for a long time that kids learn by doing," Knight said. "And we have such a wealth of support in terms of our business community that I thought, 'Let's look around and see what organizations are around and close by.' "

Last year, El Segundo student Chris Wiley, one of Hyperion's first interns, helped make a quality management video that is now used by the training department.

"Our goal is to introduce them to environmental careers and maybe into further academic study in environmental protection or biology," said Richard E. Lee, the plant's coordinator of the internship program.

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