Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

‘A Slice of Life’

MPCHS students speak with area professionals about career opportunities
Jan 23, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Over a dozen students opted for pizza and networking with business professionals from the community over their lunch break at MPCHS on Monday, Jan. 22, as a part of the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance’s new program “A Slice of Life.”

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Students at Mt. Pleasant Community High School were invited to taste “A Slice of Life” over their lunch hour yesterday as health care professionals from the community joined them for pizza and conversation.

Monday, Jan. 22, was the first of the five monthly sessions put on by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance highlighting different career fields high school students might be interested in pursuing after graduation. In focus groups with students, the Chamber found that what they really wanted was to know more business people in the community and they felt limited to their parent’s circle. The Chamber came together with the school district to be a middleman in introducing students to business professionals.

Just over a dozen students showed up to the first of two sessions, where three business professionals and a representative from Iowa Wesleyan University spoke about finding a path after college.

As Kristi Ray, executive vice president at the Chamber, opened the dialogue, she said that sometimes you make decisions in your career and sometimes decisions are made for you. Speaking about her first job in hotel management, Ray said she thought that was what she was going to do until the hotel she was working for closed down and she found herself at the Chamber.

With careers more dynamic than static, Ray advised students to branch out in their studies, saying she wished she had taken more math and business classes in college. “Make sure you can do the very basics. Don’t have tunnel vision. If you are dedicated to a field, good for you, but branch out a little,” she said.

Robb Gardner, CEO at Henry County Health Center, also shared that his career started out in physical therapy and athletic training. It wasn’t until his mentor told him he had a gift for communicating that he sought out a job in administration. Twenty-two years ago, Gardner said he thought he was going to have his own practice. “Don’t be afraid to maybe make a career switch,” Gardner said to the students. “Be nimble, be flexible.”

Matt Donnelly, of Donnelly Chiropractic, told a different story. He knew since he was in middle school what he wanted to do. He advised for students who had an idea of what their career should look like or no clue at all that they job shadow.

School is expensive, Donnelly said, and the important thing is stepping foot in a chosen field of study before committing to it.

Lynn Humphreys, Human Resource director at HCHC, said that connecting with people in a field will give insight into what their job is really like.

Cole Smith, a senior at MPCHS, said that it’s important to make these connections. “Most [students] don’t know what they want to do after graduation,” Smith said. “This can spark an idea.”

Smith is serving with the Chamber this semester as a student intern and event planner. His first day on the job, Smith said that small town growth isn’t possible without educating the students in those small communities and showing what job opportunities are available.

Before closing, Ray encouraged students to reach out to the Chamber if they were curious about job shadowing. She also reiterated the importance of “soft skills,” saying the number one reason people lose their jobs is because they don’t show up to work on time or call in sick too often.

Humphreys agreed, saying that especially in nursing, it’s critical to show up to work on time. In nursing, patients rely on the nurses’ care, co-workers and teammates wait to be relieved of their shifts. “Be committed to the hours and your teammates,” Humphreys said.

After the bell rang, concluding the lunch period, several students stayed back to talk to Humphreys. Angelique Neitmen and Tammy Cochenour both said the session was a good opportunity for them to learn about what it takes to go into the medical field.

Humphreys said that there are so many different career paths, especially in nursing, and she was delighted to talk to students about the opportunities there are in the field.

MPCHS internship supervisor Tyler Rodgers said that working with the Chamber is a great middleman and he hopes this will open dialogue between students and businesses in the community directly.

“You never know what connections you make in high school may be lifelong connections,” Gardner said. “They may open a door for you. Don’t be afraid to take the next step, engage.”

As the sessions continue, the Chamber is going to have students complete surveys so they have a say in what professionals they want to hear from next. Students who participate are entered into a drawing to win a $25 “shopping spree” to any area business of their choice.

Each semester, about 20 to 30 seniors are placed in internships, working for two class periods or about an hour a day.

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