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From classroom to career: DLHS freshmen explore post-secondary pathways at first-ever career expo

The freshman career expo had over 400 students and over 90 professionals attend. Paula Quam/Tribune1 / 3
A freshman interviews an Essentia Health worker about her job in health services. Paula Quam/Tribune2 / 3
A freshman interviews a Becker County Sheriff about his career. Paula Quam/Tribune3 / 3

Over 400 students came together in the Kent Freeman Arena last Thursday for the Detroit Lake High School's first-ever Freshman Career Expo, and students got a pretty good idea of what Detroit Lakes has to offer career-wise.

With over 90 adults from various Detroit Lakes careers, fitting into one of the six career wheel categories, professionals in the community did their best to use their own interactive displays to give the freshmen an idea of the diversity of each career.

Many students, like Tanner Engen, a freshman at the Detroit Lakes High School, were able to open their minds to new career possibilities they may not have thought of—or even knew existed—before the expo.

"It was fun to talk to the businesses in the areas that I knew I would be interested in and to learn about them," said Engen, adding, "But it was also cool to learn about areas I knew nothing about."

Engen said that going in, he wasn't really interested in careers that fit in the "Health Science Technology" portion of the Minnesota career wheel but, during the expo, he was able to see that health care offers many different job opportunities.

"Now, I want to look at some different opportunities in that (health careers) field," he said in the reflection portion of the career assignment, after the event. "I learned that there are so many opportunities in health care that I never knew about."

And Engen was just one of many students from five surrounding schools (Detroit Lake High School, Frazee High School, Pelican Rapids High School, Lake Park-Audubon High School, and Waubun-Ogema High School) who got the same experience.

The experience, which was meant to be much more interactive than job fairs the high school has hosted in the past, broke the expo down into three major parts for the students: before, during, and the reflection after.

Before the event, the freshmen gathered in their seminar classes to discuss good questions to ask the professionals, how to dress for the expo, and other areas like each student's specific interests, the areas where they were encouraged to really explore. Though, they had to interview six to eight exhibitors, and they had to talk with at least one person from every career on the Minnesota career wheel (agriculture, food & natural resources; arts, communications, & information systems; engineering, manufacturing & technology; health science and technology; human services; and business management & administration).

At the event, students made their way around the interactive booths fairly quickly, asking a professional from each career category a series of six to eight questions.

Afterwards, they had to complete follow-up activities to show what they learned, much like the reflection Engen wrote.

Even the teachers reflected on the experience.

"I've been around the block a time or two, seen things come and go in education. Some good. Some bad," said Terry Eiter, a Detroit Lakes High School freshman social studies instructor. "The expo was something that had all the elements of a win-win. While our first attempt was a great event, it has the potential to really blossom."

The school-to-work coordinator at the high school, Vern Schnathorst, echoed those sentiments, saying the kick-off expo went very well, and the high school plans to continue the event next year around the same time, late Sept.

"We had many businesses that couldn't participate this year or that we didn't contact that have already indicated they would like to be a part of it next year," said Schnathorst. "We're looking forward to making it bigger and better for next year...these types of activities in our schools and business community will hopefully continue to grow."

With the community and the school continuing to foster good working relationships, hopefully events like this will also help ease the worker shortage Detroit Lakes has been facing that the Tribune has written a number of articles on in the past few months.

To get involved, contact Vern Schnathorst at the Detroit Lakes High School or Carrie Johnston at the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

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