MARSHALL - For the past 10 years, hundreds of businesses, agencies and educational volunteers have collaborated to provide a career exploration day for approximately 2,000 high school students annually. According to organizer Tom Hoff, career and technical project coordinator at Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative, the informative, fun-filled day takes a great deal of organization and dedication, but it's well worth the effort.
"We let the students come in and see what they might like and maybe what they might not like," Hoff said. "Hopefully, this will be a spark for some students. It's not going to be the thing that's going to change every student's life. That's kind of a cumulative process. But I think it gives them a chance to see what they might have a knack at or what they might really have an interest in and hopefully, then they'll pursue it after today."
A total of 1,200 students, primarily high school sophomores, from 19 different schools, took part in the 2012 Southwest Minnesota Career Expo Tuesday at Southwest Minnesota State University. Approximately 700 more students will participate in a similar career expo today in Worthington.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Tracy Area High School’s Sammie Gervais, left, and Yellow Medicine East’s Alexis Kubesh answered multiple choice questions during a career game show opportunity at the 2012 Southwest Minnesota Career Expo Tuesday at Southwest Minnesota State University.
"It's been really good," Tracy Area High School sophomore Morgan Benson said. "I've learned a lot of new stuff about jobs and I'm glad that I came here. The whole forensics thing really got to me (Tuesday)."
A new format for the career expo was used this year, Hoff said, with seemingly successful results.
"We normally have a full-day event, so we maybe have 600 kids in the morning and 600 kids in the afternoon," he said. "This year, we did 1,200 kids in the morning. We had nearly 600 in the exhibit area, and then 300 doing campus tours and 300 at our game show. I think, for the most part, that this went well."
Benson said she enjoyed the "Career is Right" game show, which pitted Tracy Area students against Comfrey, Lakeview, Springfield and Yellow Medicine East students, in a battle over career and education knowledge. Four students from each of the five schools took turns representing their team throughout four rounds of competition.
"That was quite the experience, I have to say," Benson said of being a representative up on stage.
Behind the representation of Alexis Kubesh, Dani Weir, Sheldon Blue and Emily Sturgeon, YME won the competition, slightly edging Tracy Area for the trophy.
"The career game show was pretty fun," Blue said. "It's been going pretty good. I really liked the radio guy from 99.7 KKCK, too."
While the game show and tour are "great," Hoff said, the real key is the exhibitors. This year marked the highest number of exhibitors, with more than 60, though organizers were shooting for 70.
"The most we've had in the past is maybe 50, so we're up," Hoff said. "We need those businesses and organizations that are willing to give up their time. We had a lot of them that did, and we appreciate that."
Hy-Vee Clinic representative Sandy Murphy said she thought the students were very inquisitive at her booth, where antique scales, vaporizers and other equipment were displayed.
"It's been good," she said. "The kids have been really receptive."
While Affiliated Community Medical Centers representative Lyle Loge assisted Ivanhoe student Emily Clarke with making sutures on an orange, his co-worker Shana Zahrbock kept an eye on E.C.H.O. Charter School student Ashley Mertens, who was experimenting with a heart muscle.
"It was kind of weird," Mertens said. "It was cool, though."
"Fatal Vision" goggles were also quite popular, said Sara VanLeeuwe of the Marshall Police Department.
"They're to simulate what it might be like under the influence," she said. "But while the goggles affect the vision, which throws off their balance, it doesn't affect their reaction time and judgment. But at least they get an idea of what it's like."
Support from title sponsor Southwest Minnesota Workforce Council and other general sponsors helps offset the cost of the expo, so the only expense that schools endure is transportation. As part of a pilot program, the regional opportunity also expanded this year to include Adult Basic Education students from the Marshall area.
"All the students come in with different interests and we want to make sure there's something that will really appeal to them," Hoff said. "We try to offer a nice variety of exhibitors and opportunities. That's our goal."