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South Jordan Journal

Career opportunities give middle school students chance to explore, learn

Aug 04, 2022 01:36PM ● By Julie Slama

A camera man hoisted a television camera on a student’s shoulder while a dental hygienist showed a plaque remover to another student. Students lifted heavy plumbing wrenches, took control of mini robotic construction cranes and directed them around the media center or climbed aboard an ambulance to explore.

This was Elk Ridge Middle School’s tool day, one of several opportunities area middle schools gave to students to learn about careers from professionals. Other middle school students at Elk Ridge, Mountain Creek and South Jordan middle schools learned about college and career awareness through lessons, speakers or tours ranging from JTEC opportunities to job shadows to industry tours.

The experience not only can help shape their futures, but maybe even a chance to dip their feet in the profession this summer.

Eighth-grader Rachel Millerberg was one of about 450 South Jordan Middle students learning about possible job options as she shadowed a couple writers during the week.

“I’m wanting to learn about the different kinds of writing careers because I like to write and read a lot,” she said.

Counselor Kelly Graham said students like Rachel can select the profession and reach out to someone in the field to shadow for four to eight hours.

“We encourage them to pick an occupation or place that is of interest to them,” she said. “We see it as a learning opportunity in two different ways. When a student spends time with this professional and learn and see what they’re doing, they can say that was awesome and when I’m a little older, I’d like to even learn a little more about that. Or they can say I didn’t enjoy that so much. I’m glad I found out now instead of spending time and money on a four-year degree and doing something they don’t like that much. We still feel that the final answer is very worthwhile for our students.”

While several students shadowed their parents, which Graham said, “what they see is often a lot different than what they might hear about,” some students reached out to other careers ranging from a law office to a fire department.

“They might be there to see one job in particular, but they’re probably going to view a dozen more different types and how they interact. They’ll be able to see if it’s a computer-based job or if they work alone or how they interact with people,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for our kids just to start thinking about future occupations. The more we can show them during these career opportunities, and let them observe, the better decision they can make down the road for themselves. The kids come back with all these fun stories. They’re so excited to share their story. And some kids occasionally will come in and say something like, ‘Hey, can we talk about a computer offering what do you have?’ I want to know what my options are because I found something I’m interested in.”

Elk Ridge invited professionals to come with “tools” of their trade to engage students as they rotated through the stations that ranged from police to deconstructive testing.

Seventh-grader Catherine Brandenstein had learned about careers in coding — “I did Python last semester;” in cosmetology – “there’s a lot more complicated tools with hair than I realized,” and being a camera operator — “that’s pretty cool to see how they film on TV.”

Career and Technical Education teacher Angela Hardy said the idea was to give students a range of careers to explore.

“The more they get to know, the more hands-on opportunities, the more excited students are to look into careers,” she said. “We’re hoping one of these will spur their interest. They’re being exposed to a range of careers and seeing some of the concepts in the core classes apply to the real world.”

Firefighter and EMT Max Doddridge said he was there to inspire a new generation.

“I want to help them understand what we do, give them the ins-and-outs of the profession,” he said.

His captain, Jared Velez, said that classes in writing and math are important as it provides the crew with communication and problem-solving skills. Class group projects translate to working together as a team, he added.

Entrepreneur Brian Whitmer gave students a hands-on opportunity to explore CoughDrop, a communication tool that helps students with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and others.

Looking at a certain word or picture displayed on the iPad, students were able to communicate, the devices, which are personalized, already are in Jordan, Alpine and Salt Lake school districts so mostly non-verbal students can communicate with teachers and therapists, he said.

“We’re wanting to find ways to allow everyone to be able to communicate, participate in class discussions, and tease their siblings and friends,” he said, adding that it was his own daughter who inspired him in 2015 to create the device. “It’s giving a voice to all students.”

Career and technical education teacher Megan Rees said she appreciated the diverse careers that were shared.

“This has to be the coolest experience,” she said. “They students are getting to see some of the newest tools and talk to professionals in the community instead of just listening to a stiff presentation. They’re asking questions they’re interested in and having a more intimate engagement.”

She wasn’t surprised after asking her class, “What do you think of tool day?”

“It’s awesome.” λ