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Ninth and 10th graders have first Career Expo

FRC Team 3313 “Mechatronics” had a booth set up to show the younger students a fun side to engineering. (Annie Harman/Echo Press)1 / 3
Booths provided students an opportunity to interact with business professionals representing a variety of careers in the local and surrounding communities. (Annie Harman/Echo Press) 2 / 3
Booths provided students an opportunity to interact with business professionals representing a variety of careers in the local and surrounding communities. (Annie Harman/Echo Press)3 / 3

In preparation for Alexandria Area High School to open in the fall, a 9th and 10th grade Career Expo was held Friday. This was the first time for students this young to have a career expo in Alexandria.

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To help get a jump start on the new Academies and Career Pathways that will be put in place in the new school, the goal of the expo was to encourage the students to think about their future, explore new avenues and engage in hands-on activities related to dozens of different careers.

The expo included a keynote speaker, breakout sessions with other guest speakers, and a booth area showcasing 30 different businesses and organizations that represented a variety of different careers. There was a session starting at 8 a.m. for the freshmen and one starting at 11:30 a.m. for the sophomores.

Keynote speaker was Shelly Gompf, director of human resources at Douglas County Hospital and Clinics. Gompf discussed her career path with the students, telling them about a math teacher she had in high school who told her not to pick a career in math. He told me I’m not good at math,” Gompf said. “So I believed I’m not good at math.”

Gompf overcame the fear of math in college and once she started her career in human resources, she never looked back. She saw that teacher later in life and let him know that she has a career in business where she uses math all the time. She also thanked him for his feedback.

Gompf also expressed the importance of following your passion when it comes to careers.

“You can’t turn off a passion that’s real,” said Gompf. “Passion drives performance. It will do you no good to ignore your passion.”

Gompf also addressed the criticism the new academies are receiving about “pigeon-holing” children. Her response was that the academies are really eye opening and that the more the students are exposed to these opportunities, the faster they can jump into another academy when they decide a career isn’t for them. She reminded the students that it’s never too late to pause, refocus and redirect.

At the end of her speech, Gompf challenged the freshmen and sophomores to find their passion, define their purpose and listen to different perspectives to help them succeed in life.

After Gompf’s speech, the students broke up into two groups. Half of the class went into small groups to listen to speakers who represented the different academies: engineering, manufacturing technologies and natural resources, health sciences and human services, and business, communication and entrepreneurship. The other half went to the booth area, which provided the students an opportunity to talk one-to-one with professionals in their areas of interest, along with exploring other areas they may have not originally considered.

During the hour that each group was in the booth area, the students were able to get stickers from each professional with whom they had a conversation. After receiving 16 different stickers, they were eligible to enter a drawing for a tablet.

When the new school opens this fall and the academies are put into place, the Freshmen Academy will include a career expo every year, along with an academy showcase, career awareness, mentorships and other freshmen seminars.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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