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DIRIGO STORIES: Internship program propels high school student into fashion career

Abigail Osgood, a Greely High School senior, works at Wallace James in Portland. The clothing company took her on as an intern through the high school's Pathways program (WGME).

PORTLAND (WGME) – School is getting a lot more interesting for a Greely High School senior thanks to a unique internship at a clothing company in Portland.

“I was kind of dreading another year of just high school,” said Abigail Osgood. “I wanted something different.”

Osgood found a way to make her senior year different through the school’s Pathways Program.

“Hopefully the student gains a lot of knowledge, and the mentor working with the student benefits in some way also,” said Mark Bay, the Pathways Specialist at Greely High School.

Pathways pairs students with real-world work experience and gives them high school credit for it.

Bay matched Osgood’s passion for fashion with Wallace James, a design-to-production clothing company in Portland.

“I would’ve killed for (this experience),” said Kim Ortengren, owner and CEO of Wallace James. “I would’ve better understood what I was designing for.”

Ortengren has seen many different sides to the fashion industry over her 10-year career. When she grew tired of the segmented nature of the business – often, you have to deal with multiple businesses to create a clothing line – she decided to create an all-in-one clothing company.

“The interesting part is that I had the ability to see the overall top level picture of every avenue of the apparel business,” Ortengren said.

She’s now able to pass on that knowledge to Osgood and teach her about more than just one part of the industry.

“I’ve always had a passion for art and clothes,” Osgood said.

The teenager thought she wanted to focus on fashion design, but through her six hours a week at Wallace James, Osgood has found she’s more interested in the business side of the industry. She’s currently applying to several colleges and will make her final decision in the coming months.

Bay says that’s just one example of how transformational hands-on work experience can be for teenagers.

“It gives them contacts. It gives them somebody in the business community who can support them and who can help further their career,” said Bay.

Ortengren says while the focus has been on Osgood learning about the industry, she and her team have learned from Osgood, and become better communicators with their clients because of it.

“You kind of forget what's in your head and what you know,” Ortengren said. “And now you have to learn to back all the way up, and explain it to someone,” said Ortengren.

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