What do you want to be when you grow up?
That’s the question 68 Kent professionals were trying to help students answer at the first-ever Kent-Meridian High School Career Day April 24. The full-day event allowed every student at the school to attend sessions featuring speakers from a wide variety of careers to help get them thinking a bit more about the future.
“For the most part, these kids have an idea of what they want to do, but I think this gives them a feel for the schooling and the organization it takes to get there,” Principal Wade Barringer said.
Barringer was inspired to organize the event, which is the first of its kind at the school, when he started as principal at the school this year. It’s another part of “The New K-M,” he said, this year’s school theme that aims at bettering its previously rough reputation.
“It’s part of that partnership we’re trying to build between the community and the kids,” he said. “These people get to come and see for themselves how great our kids really are and what we do here.”
From an animator to a zoologist, the event hosted professionals from careers both common and unique, providing students a broad perspective on the possibilities. They also got a deeper look into careers they may have thought they had figured out.
“Not only did we talk to them about what it takes to become a firefighter, but also all the opportunities for civilian staff and all the specialty jobs available at the department,” said Tami Kapule, a public educator for the Kent Fire Department.
Kapule and fellow Kent Fire members Melanie Taylor and Kimberly Behymer taught a well-attended session on the popular childhood dream job. Kapule said there are many opportunities at the department most people don’t know about, such as public education, code enforcement, the investigation unit and the hazardous materials unit.
“This is important, because these kids are our future,” she said. “When I was this age, I didn’t realize that this career was even available. I had to go out and find it.”
Taylor said the broad spectrum of careers at the event was what made it so valuable.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the kids, because you have all the well-known jobs, but you look at this program, and the possibilities are endless,” she said. “There are so many different jobs out there.”
Dean Saggau said his session on his career as a financial advisor for Edward Jones was also well-attended, and the students asked all the right questions.
“They all want to know what your day is like and what it takes to get to where you are,” he said. “And they all want to know about income, which is important.”
Saggau said he’s lucky to have found a career that he loves, and he hopes his words will help give students a head start on finding their own niches.
“You need to start thinking about this at this age, so I think this is getting them doing that,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re passionate about what you do, because you’re probably going to be doing it for a long time.”
Sophomore Balveen Purewal, 16, who wants to be a businesswoman, said the sessions were enlightening. One that she attended was taught by Barringer’s wife, Michelle Barringer, who works as a fashion merchandizer.
“She gave us a lot of varieties of things people that go into fashion can be,” Purewal said. “And she told us what classes we should be taking now and also in college. It helped a lot to see what we needed to do to get there.”
Superintendent Barbara Grohe was in attendance and called the career day a “major event” for Kent-Meridian.
“It is great that the students are getting a chance to learn about all these jobs, and it’s great to see some Kent-Meridian grads back in the building,” Grohe said. “That’s a major contribution these professionals are making.”
Barringer said he plans on making the career day an annual event, and next year he hopes to add another element. In addition to hosting guest speakers, he said students will get to attend a completely different set of elective classes for a day in order to introduce them to new opportunities.
“One of the many things we’re trying to accomplish here is getting students engaged in their learning,” Barringer said. “We’re trying to get them to find something they can really hang their hat on and get excited about.”
Contact Daniel Mooney at 253-437-6012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.