Pathways: Santiam High students connected to professional insights

May, 2018 Posted in Community, News, Other, People, School, Your Health
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Santiam High School students engage with real world medical skills with a mannequin. Allison McKenzie

By Mary Owen

Santiam High School freshmen just wrapped up this year’s career pathway program designed to open their eyes and minds to a variety of jobs, including military, culinary, marketing and even teaching.

“The program currently works to expose 40 freshmen youth to a variety of career pathways and soft skills through 10 weeks of professional speakers and five weeks of industry tours that align to their career goals and interests,” said Kelly Noack, outreach coordinator with OSU Extension Service, Marion County. OSU partners with Santiam GROW-EDC and the North Santiam School District to provide close-up views of such areas as healthcare, social services, arts, construction, business, engineering, computer sciences, and more, Noack said.

“The students are engaged throughout the entire series learning from a wide variety of positive adult mentors who are volunteering their time and talent to connect with the youth through a shared ‘spark,’” Noack added. “When freshmen students are exposed to new ideas and the reality of careers outside of what they already know, they are more likely to align their career pathway with academic achievement, attendance, and community involvement to reach their end goals.”

Noack said something special happens when youth hear from their “real-life heroes.”

“Students within this class are able to relate to these adult mentors and see that intimidating careers, like being a doctor or surgeon-tech, are possible with hard work and the connections that they are making,” she said. “These Santiam Canyon students have genuine respect for adults in this program.”

As part of Debbie Fawcett’s advisor class for all freshmen, participating students created a personal education plan, using the Career Information Systems through the University of Oregon and other online resources.

“The piece we were missing was helping students see beyond theoretical,” said Fawcett, who teaches business and steps in as Santiam’s career coach next year. “Our students have some fairly significant personal challenges and well as geographical challenges when it comes to job shadowing or getting mentors in the fields they were interested in.”

Allison McKenzie, executive director and entrepreneurial coach of GROW-EDC, said Santiam High’s newly created position will not only benefit individual students, but will give GROW and OSU Extension “an opportunity to reach and track more kids as they move through high school, and represents a new and important level of commitment on the part of the school and school district to help students engage with career paths that are meaningful to them.”

Fawcett credits McKenzie and Noack for the career connections they bring to the program, exposing students to experiences that otherwise may not have happened.

“Allison and Kelly also put a lot of work into our field trips, and our students are the ‘lucky beneficiaries’ of that hard work,” Fawcett said.

Students interested in juvenile justice and social work had a chance to engage with professionals at Oregon Youth Authority, the Marion County Detention Center and Boys & Girls Club in Salem, McKenzie said.

“We recently visited the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific NW in Lebanon as well as the gorgeous new Linn Benton Healthcare campus,” she added. “Students had an opportunity to meet with medical students in our first stop, and the highlight was having an opportunity to example intact organs from a donor patient and learning how they all connect to each other under the skeleton.”

LBCC Dean Linda Carroll talked to students about many of the healthcare career options at the college. McKenzie said the field trip “gave the students the chance to see the many real-life labs they have for nursing, surgery, diagnostic imaging and other
career tracks.”

Other field trips included visits to Focus Heating & Cooling to learn about HVAC systems; Modern Building Systems to see its manufacturing process; and Stayton Builders Mart to listen to contractor Chris Roberts on how the company supports the work of contractors.

“In early June, students interested in the arts, will be visiting Western Oregon University campus to learn more about their arts programs as well as dorm life and other aspects of life at a small public university,” McKenzie said. “We’re particularly excited about this trip as this more intimate school environment is just the ticket for some young people who would feel lost on large campuses like OSU and U of O.”

A primary motivation for continuing the program next year, she said, “is encapsulated in a comment made after one field trip last year: ‘Thank you for helping us try and get somewhere in life.’

“We know that our investment of time, money and energy in these students is going to pay off, not only for them, but for their families and the communities they call home,” McKenzie said. “We believe that getting these kids out of town opens their eyes to possibilities beyond their immediate horizon, and by focusing on freshmen, we have time to help them put feet under their aspirations.”

To further develop what they take away from the program, Noack said students will continue to work with their career counselor in the fall to align their classes, volunteer time, and academics to their end goals.

“It’s really clear how dedicated teachers and staff are in this high school,” McKenzie said. “I think we would find that in all of the high schools in our area, but through this program we get to witness it first-hand. Teachers and staff work really hard to make sure no one slips through the cracks.”

McKenzie said feedback from students, staff and business people has been well received, with comments such as “thankful for this opportunity,” “can see myself here,” “cool,” “made me want to work there,” and “amazing!”

“Although this is a long-term play in the world of economic development, GROW believes that this is one of the most important projects we have pursued in recent years,” McKenzie said. “It is certainly one of the most heartwarming.”

GROW-EDC was able to offer the Santiam High School career pathway program thanks to funding from the A.J. Frank Family Foundation, Freres Foundation and Marion County.

For information, contact Noack at 503-373-3751 or McKenzie at 503-871-5188.

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