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Eastern High School Students Visit Bureau of Engraving and Printing During JA Job Shadow Experience


On Thursday, May 5, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington sent 17 students from Eastern High School in Washington D.C. to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) to participate in a JA Job Shadow program. The participating students are either currently enrolled or have previously been enrolled in Ms. Perkin’s Art class at Eastern High School. The aim of the overall experience was to introduce the students to various artistic and creative jobs offered at the BEP. 

When the students arrived, they were broken up into two small groups: one group went to learn about the initial process of engraving, while the second had a chance to see how bank notes are created.

During the engraving demonstration, the students were given a picture of Frederick Douglass, a graver, a magnifying lens (engraver lens) and a laminate sheet. Their task was to engrave the face of Frederick Douglass onto the sheet of plastic. In order to be exact with the graver, the students had to look through the engraver glass and meticulously “dot” every line of Frederick Douglass’s face. This process has been used since 1862 and is still the most effective way to create the engraving plate for a printed bank note.

After completing this task, the students were moved to the offices where bank notes are conceptualized and created. There are only four bank note designers in the United States and they were all there to introduce themselves to the students and were very excited to talk about their work.

One of the designers, Brian Thompson, gave a brief history of his 26 years of experience with the BEP and gave the students some insight on the techniques and tools used by the designers. He also shared his process for creating the newest $100 note, which the students found extremely fascinating. As the students were leaving his sessions he showed them a bill that he was working on for Eastern High School and asked them for input.

The groups came back together for lunch and were surprised by the Director of the BEP, Leonard Olijar. He gave a brief history of the agency and his experience becoming Director. He also gave out $2 bills to students who could gave him correct answers on his pop quiz.

The students ended the day with a guided tour of the printing facility to put all of their knowledge into perspective. After the tour, the students came back for a final question and answer session before ending their Job Shadow experience.

Overall, the day was very hands-on, informative, and engaging for all involved. Junior Achievement of Greater Washington thanks the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for their support of the JA Job Shadow Program.

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