A career first

What should I be? MMS students got some possible answers to that age-old question Friday when a variety of presenters talked about their careers.

Photos by Jenny Kirk Southwest Minnesota State University English professor Wendy Schoolmeester, right, was one of several career professionals to engage with Marshall Middle School eighth-graders on Friday afternoon at the school’s first-ever career fair.

MARSHALL — Children and young adults often get asked what they want to be when they grow up. Thanks to a new career exploration process — one that culminated with a first-ever career fair on Friday morning — Marshall Middle School eighth-graders had the opportunity to discover a variety of career paths that may lead them to where they want to go in the future.

MMS counselors Jennifer Hey and Krista Bjella, along with Assistant Principal Jeff Hansen, were instrumental in developing and organizing a new and improved collaboration for the 170 students in the eighth-grade class.

“It’s really about exposing kids to real life careers,” Hey said. “It’s part of our strategic goal. We want to expose kids to different career clusters by bringing in community members who serve as role models from their career fields.”

Avera representative Dodie Derynck spoke to the students about health services, noting that she had been in the field for 30 years.

“I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my career field,” she said. “I’ve had a great career.”

When one of the students inquired about earnings, Derynck told them that registered nurses starting out make $28 an hour.

“Health services is very popular with the students,” Hey said.

Hey added that the students appeared to be very engaged.

“They’re asking a lot of questions,” she said.

Along with health services, the career fair featured 16 other career clusters, including finance, marketing, architecture and construction, transportation, distribution and logistics, education and training, military and agriculture, food and natural resources.

“The kids are scattered out around MMS at the 17 different stations,” Hey said. “Each student has the opportunity to attend three sessions — two were identified through the career cluster inventory using MCIS (Minnesota Career Information System) and the third one is of their choice. We’ve done career exploration with our eighth-graders for a few years, but this is a whole new level. It’s more in-depth discovery and exploration.”

The organizers said the objective is to give students a foundational awareness of skills and job descriptions which can aid in creating a base from which to draw knowledge from and to build a broad understanding of possible pathways to college and careers.

“We’ve been giving classes and the students have been actively involved with that since the end of November,” Hey said. “We’ve been building on their likes and dislikes, working on their income preferences and those kinds of situations. It’s called Reality Check.”

Eighth-grader Alexandra DeVos said the career exploration process has been very informative.

“First, I went to hospitality and tourism and then I went to law and safety,” DeVos said. “I learned about what you do in those areas, like what jobs you can do and what you can do after college and high school. Now I’m heading to human services next. That showed up on this test I took. It said I should go there.”

Hansen said one of his goals this year was to have a career fair, but that the concept developed even further.

“We talked about my goal this year, which was to have a career fair, and the idea morphed from a career fair to something even better using MCIS and tying all that into the World’s Best Workforce,” Hansen said. “We wanted it to be a premier experience for students in our district.”

The organizers said they appreciated the support they received, including support from Superintendent Scott Monson and MMS Principal Mary Kay Thomas. The respect was reciprocated.

“They’ve done a fabulous job getting this all together,” Thomas said. “It’s phenomenal for the kids.”

Eighth-grader Massimo Chamberlain said he got a lot out of the whole experience.

“It’s been going really well so far,” he said. “It’s helped me know what subjects to study to get into these careers. I’m definitely drawn to the government and public administration area, mainly the law enforcement and emergency stuff, like the fire department.”

Chamberlain attended a session on government and public administration as well as a military one, which he was also interested in.

“What I’m planning to do after high school or college is the military,” Chamberlain said. “Then, I’ll probably pursue government and public administration.”

Eighth-grader Emily Hernandez also said she had a positive and productive experience overall.

“It was really amazing,” she said. “I learned a bunch of new stuff. I learned about what I want to do, which is probably photography or maybe working with children because I love children.”

Hernandez also learned that working with money is not necessarily something she wants to pursue in the future.

“I’m not into that,” she said. “I went to media and communications, which was like working with videos, YouTube and stuff. Hospitality and tourism was like all about tourists. That was good because I love the world. And this last one was health and human services. It was really nice. I got to learn a lot of new things.”

The career fair would not have been possible, the organizers said, without the presenters from the various career fields.

“We’re so grateful for the community members’ willingness to share their expertise with our students,” Hey said. “We’re using some community members, like Alan Macht from Trackchair, but there are also in-house people like resource officer Sara VanLeeuwe and our technology teacher Karen Londgren.”

Hansen said he sees the career fair as a positive collaboration for both the students and the career representatives.

“For the eighth-graders, it gives them a chance to explore and maybe find something to pique their interest,” he said. “My hope is also that some community experts look at this as an opportunity to grow their workforce.”

Hey added that it would be a bonus to keep students local. Presenter Ryne Myhrberg, a graduate of Marshall High School and Southwest Minnesota State University, got experience during his internship in California, but then came back to his hometown to start his career.

“I learned a lot out there and I learned a lot in school, but I really wanted to give back to the Marshall community,” Myhrberg said. “This is the community that I love and where I want to be. So I thought I’d take what I learned and bring it back here.”

Myhrberg said he worked for Larry Levinson Productions (LLP) when he was out in Los Angeles, California.

“That was my internship right out of college,” he said. “I just kind of stayed with them for awhile and then came back to Marshall. I missed the weather — it’s too nice out there all of the time — and I missed the people, so it was time to come home.”

The eighth-grade students appeared to enjoy hearing about the multitude of job opportunities within the media and communications field.

“My presentation was about media and communications, so we talked about whether they were interested in film, YouTube videos, photography — I had a couple of students talking about theater — and then also animation,” Myhrberg said. “It went really well. I think the kids learned a lot. They seemed really excited about the possibilities and what you can really do in mass media.”

Myhrberg, who currently works for Studio One TV, said people in the industry can start their own business, work for a company — either big or small — or work for the city, county or state.

“They can also work for the government,” he said. They can even work for the Secret Service because they need people to run video cameras and security stuff. That’s always interested me.”

A number of career representatives, including SMSU English professor Wendy Schoolmeester, emphasized to the students that they should enjoy the career field they choose.

“This is my 31st year in teaching — that kind of dates me by telling you that — but I still love it,” Schoolmeester said. “If you get to the point where you don’t love it anymore, get out. Let someone else do it.”

She added that there are good teachers and also some not-so-good teachers.

“We all know one of those teachers who will bore you to death,” she said. “So one of the number one things I’ve learned is to have engaging lessons. Students learn more when they’re engaged. You also have way less discipline problems.”

Schoolmeester pointed out that elementary school teachers usually teach everything, while middle school and high school teachers are focused more on a single subject. She also said it was important to build a relationship with students.

“That doesn’t mean to be their friend,” Schoolmeester said. “But get to know them, to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. There’s the old saying that goes, ‘Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.'”