Anthony Cairo ’14 was still a high school student when he learned about the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows at Washington College. “It was one of the first things I was introduced to at the school when I was on tours. And that was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this school, and when I got in, it was one of the many goals I wanted to achieve during my time here.”
Well, as they say, mission accomplished.
Though he didn’t get into the Cater Society the first time he applied (he needed to broaden his course load and bring up his grades a bit, he says), Cairo was accepted on his second try. Since then, he’s traveled on Cater grants to Costa Rica and Germany, and now, in his senior year, he’s president of the society.
“It’s been really cool for me this year being president. I’ve gotten to see a lot of different aspects of it. Half of the experience for me is being inspired to go and do something incredible after hearing what other Fellows have done.”
Cairo, who’s a business management major specializing in accounting and finance, with a minor in information systems, says the work he did in Germany helped inform his senior thesis, developing a business plan for a project he calls “BridgeYear.”
“Last summer I went to Germany with Dr. [Terry] Scout as part of his International Business Experience. I got a Cater grant to study Germany’s apprenticeship program while I was there.” In Germany, high school students take an aptitude test that guides them to an apprenticeship for a few years. After the apprenticeship, they can either decide to continue working in the field, or go to university to further study it or another subject.
Cairo says the model makes enormous sense because it gives young people a chance to gain real-world experience before making the financial and time commitment to college. “What I find is that everything I learn in a college classroom I learn better when I’ve seen it before. So you can say, ‘I remember seeing how this worked, this is how it can be applied in the real world.’ You’re going to learn a lot better.” His BridgeYear concept would create a similar model in the U.S., using a college’s alumnae base to give prospective students opportunities to intern in several different areas over the course of a year to help them focus on what they want to study before matriculating to college. “It would give a school a much more focused, productive student.”
Cairo’s Cater grant to travel to Costa Rica to study Reserva Playa Tortuga led him to connect WC’s Enactus entrepreneurial team, of which he was a senior vice president, to the biological research station. Over winter break, Cairo returned to the station, along with four other Enactus members and Lansing Williams, assistant professor of business management, in part to share ideas with Costa Rican community leaders.
“We wanted to show them our garden box project, and we wanted them to show us their biogarden project,” says Cairo. “Their prototype uses layers of rock, gravel and sand to treat gray water. Our goal is to combine the two so that the garden boxes we distribute to local families in Kent County can take dirty water and filter it before it ends up in the Chester River.” Locally, Enactus is working with LaMotte Chemical Co. to devise a portable filtering system that could be integrated with the garden boxes distributed to needy families.
Cairo, who also earned two business internships while at WC, graduated with a job already in hand. After his internship last summer at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, he was offered a fulltime position in the company’s investment operations team.