SHS Hosts Career Day


Jennifer Swander, Staff Writer

Teenagers who can have a vision for their future will be more engaged in their high school experience, and for two hours on March 23, the students at Seward High School had the opportunity to interact with people from myriad career fields. Over 50 businesses and organizations from the local area and other parts of the peninsula gathered in the gym, cafeteria, commons, and hallways.  People representing the marine industry, law enforcement, parks service, hospitality, small business, aviation, real estate, animal services, corrections, finance, healthcare, and many more, shared their personal experiences as they answered questions when students approached their tables.

In addition to students having the freedom to visit tables of career fields they were curious about, they could also attend 15-minute presentations in the auditorium. For her presentation, Nicole Lawrence of Seward Properties had created an interactive game, and she gave an overview about opportunities in real estate. She commented at the end of day, “We were so impressed with how well the event was run. Meeting the students and seeing their enthusiasm for interacting with the different presenters was inspiring. We had a great time helping students learn a little about the home buying experience, and we can’t wait for next year!”

Sophomore Kai Roddan spoke with Lawrence at her table. He “learned that for real estate you need some things you learn in school.” Also, junior Kupono Albino commented that he learned about his “credit and how to buy houses.”

Judge Tina Teaford wanted to attend the event and present because she thought “it would be great to get kids interested in the law and tell them about all the aspects of the court system.”

Students Casey Bryden, Ethan Thompson, and Trevor Guernsey were a few of many who made it a point to attend Bruce Jaffa’s presentation. Jaffa shared many anecdotes while he explained photos in his slideshow, highlighting behind-the-scenes welding projects. Guernsey thought Jaffa’s presentation was worth attending, calling it “an exquisite speech!”

Prior to career day, all students spent time identifying potential career pathways through interest inventory surveys facilitated by the high school student success liaison Jennifer Ransom. She said, “When youth are given the opportunity to do formal career exploration, they are encouraged to consider their strengths, values, and interests—and to see what careers fit within those aspects of their personality. By prioritizing career exploration before career day, students identified which vendors to visit, presentations to attend and questions to ask based on their individual interests.” Over the past several years, Ransom has also coordinated on-the-job training (OJT), internships and mentorships for many young people.

President of the Seward Schools Site-Based Council, Mica Van Buskirk, wanted to create partnerships between the high school and community businesses and organizations, so more internships, mentorships and on-the-job training opportunities would be opened up for students. In the early stages of planning, Van Buskirk took the lead as she contacted people in the community about this unique event.  Every person she spoke with was very enthusiastic about being involved.

One objective of Van Buskirk and the organizing committee was to include people who had graduated from SHS, so that current students could see what pathways former Seahawks had taken. One of those individuals was Billy Wolfe, who said, “The career day at the high school was a really fun experience! I started working for the Harbor 360 Hotel as a front desk agent when I was 16, a junior in high school. I would work the evening shift after school, earning money and an OJT credit! It was great!  Now, almost five years after graduation, I am the Assistant General Manager of the Gateway Hotel. I loved being able to come back to SHS and meeting teens who are in the same shoes I once was. It was wonderful being able to speak about the possibilities there are to stay in Seward and have a wonderful career, which at their age, I didn’t think was an option. Overall, I loved being able to hopefully inspire a new generation of students about the positions and growth that is available to them.”

One of the representatives of Shoreside Petroleum was Ariel Sieverts, who commented, “I had so much fun at Career Day!  I loved seeing all the members of our community willing to spend a couple of hours at the school to give our kids a small glimpse of the opportunities available to them right in their own backyards.  My favorite part had to be getting the non-scripted questions from the youngsters who were genuinely curious about what we do and what it takes to be a commercial truck driver and accountant.  We had some great questions, and I had the best handshake I have had in a while from Mr. Fischer Strickland.  Our Seward kids are amazing!”

Many businesses generously donated prizes for a raffle. Part of the event included raffle tickets distributed to students who participated by asking engaging questions or actively listening. Students were excited for the chance to win vendor merchandise, gift cards, and complimentary local excursions.

After the event, 102 students completed feedback forms. The results showed 95% indicated they learned something new about a career while participating in Career Day. Of those, 47% marked a 5-out-of-5 score, stating that they strongly learned new things about a career.  62% indicated they have some idea of what they need to pursue their career of interest.

The day was truly a collaborative effort. Students involved in Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society, and student council greeted guests and guided them to their tables for the event and the check-in area. During the complimentary lunch, students entertained participants by playing piano and guitar.

Principal Henry Burns “saw the need for our kids in the Seward area to explore opportunities they didn’t have before.” Also, one of his goals as principal has been to create more opportunities for the community to connect with the high school.

Seward High School Career Day was definitely one of those opportunities—a positive, valuable experience for all those involved.

Mica Van Buskirk said that there are already plans in place for expanding the event next year.