Summer vacation hasn't exactly been a vacation for 16-year-old Jennifer Chou. True, she's been away from school, but she's been at work since July 1 at her first summer job -- an internship at the Town of Danville's Transportation Department.

Jennifer, daughter of Clement and Jodie Chou, of Danville, is beginning her junior year at Monte Vista High School. She heard about the internship, offered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission High School Internship Program, from an online school bulletin and submitted her application in March. She was contacted for an interview in May and received the job offer about two weeks later.

The MTC High School Internship Program, created to expose youths to careers in transportation in addition to providing paid summer jobs, deploys students to transportation and city/county offices throughout the nine-county Bay Area. More than 800 applications were received this year, with just 47 students selected by the 43 agencies participating.

Jennifer said she's learned about local traffic operations such as signals, signage, roadway striping, curb markings and parking management, in addition to transportation planning and traffic calming and safety.

"We like to get the intern exposed to as many aspects of transportation as we can, both locally and regionally," said Andy Dillard, a traffic engineer associate who acted as Jennifer's mentor throughout her eight weeks on the job. He said the Town of Danville has participated in the High School Internship Program for about 10 years.


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Jennifer worked on the striping plan for her own high school's parking lot and drop-off area and, while driving around with Dillard, got to see what she called "cool new traffic things" that had changed, such as where radar trailers were being placed.

"It was fun to have insider info about so much," Jennifer said. "My mentor has been really helpful during my time with the Town of Danville."

Ever wanted to see the inside of a traffic signal box? Jennifer did and learned how traffic signals work, took road measurements, "geocoded" street signs (marked their coordinates on a map and exported them to a GIS database), updated intersection graphics and used a radar gun to collect data for a speed survey.

The job wasn't all fieldwork, however. She created a rough draft of a stand-alone website for the Southwest Area Transportation Committee, updated lists and created forms with Google Docs. Her final project involved working on a map with color coding of street segment speed limits, which will ultimately be available on the Town of Danville's website, she said.

And there was a special outing for the interns of the under-construction Bay Bridge East Span, scheduled to be completed in about a year. In addition to a boat tour of the structure and a drive on the new roadway, the interns got to walk across the span and go underneath to see the inner workings.

After completing her internship, will Jennifer consider a career in transportation? "I might want to do engineering or something similar," she said. Her favorite subjects are chemistry and math, and she hopes to attend UC Berkeley.

"Jennifer is a very bright individual, self-directed and personable," Dillard said. "She has done an exceptional job for us."

Contact Georgia Lambert at arounddanville@yahoo.com.