Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

MP students network with area professionals during ‘Career Day’

Mar 05, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Kadi Johannsen, with Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre, spoke about her theatre experience during “Career Day” at MPCHS Friday. Johannsen shared the room with Iowa Wesleyan’s choir director Blair Buffington.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Mary West was one of two female students at Mt. Pleasant Community High School that chose to sit in on the engineering seminar during Career Day on Friday, March 2.

As one of the 11 careers students could learn more about during the high school’s Career Day, organized by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, the field of engineering had the highest attendance, and West was looking forward to connecting with local engineers about what job opportunities would be available for her in Mt. Pleasant.

For the past three years, she has been the only girl in her engineering classes, and she’s learned to keep her head down and focus on her studies. “It doesn’t matter gender-wise,” West said. “I’m excited to learn about different experiences within the engineering field.”

Other students attended seminars focusing on careers in agriculture, the military, law, business, child development and conservation — to name a few.

As Melody Miller walked to the seminar on fashion and cosmetology during passing time, she reflected on how long she has been interested in a fashion career and talked about how neat it was to get to meet people in that industry.

“Ever since I watched Project Runway, I’ve been interested in (fashion), and I’m really good at colors,” Miller said.

Brody McGhghy also spoke about his strong connection with his potential career choice: physical therapy. Recovering from tearing his ACL not once, but twice during high school exposed him to the possibilities of a career in physical therapy. He was excited to hear what advice Christina White and Tina Loges, physical therapists at Henry County Health Center, had for students interested in that field.

Meanwhile in the high school commons, West listened attentively as Jeff Williams, of NCI Building Systems in Mt. Pleasant, introduced what he does in the world of engineering every day.

As a graduate of MPCHS, Williams spoke about how fortunate students were today to have engineering classes at the high school level, an opportunity he didn’t have while a student there.

“You have an advantage,” Williams said to the 50-some students who attended his seminar. “One of the best things to be successful is perseverance. Work hard, study hard, and go to college to learn how to apply your knowledge,” he said.

Williams said he knows high school students often want to get out of state, but he explained what he liked about staying in Mt. Pleasant. As an engineer, he still gets to work on buildings in states from California to Texas to even Canada. “We’re all over the Midwest,” he said. “It’s quite an undertaking.”

Craig Hurd, of Contitech, briefly spoke about the versatility in engineering and how it can take someone anywhere they want to go.

“Anywhere you want to work, there’s an avenue to get there in engineering,” Hurd said, adding that through his job he has traveled to 13 states and four countries. “(It’s) an avenue to open up the world. It’s a profession (where) you can make a good living,” he said.

Down the hallway, Blair Buffington, of Iowa Wesleyan University (IW), acted out scenarios of his daily tasks as a music professor with students from IW for the art, music and drama seminar.

The students he brought from the IW choir Primae Voces demonstrated the skills they are learning in the college classroom and talked about how they plan on taking their experience into careers of music therapy, music education, theatre, and various other careers.

Working for a small school, Buffington said he wears a lot of hats, which is why it’s important for music or art students to know a little about a lot. “I’m a banker, a voice teacher, a theatre coordinator and a performer,” Buffington said.

“He’s also a father to all of us,” one of the IW music students piped in.

Buffington broke down what it meant to choose a career vs. choosing a vocation, saying that a career is something someone does for a significant amount of time. Meanwhile, a vocation is something a person feels personally called to, something they feel so strongly about that they could not go through their life without doing it.

“I’m here today because I get to do something I love, and you can do,” Buffington said to the MPCHS students.

Kadi Johannsen, of Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre, also spoke to the students interested in art, music and drama about her career path. While Johannsen attended college in Chicago, she said she’s glad she moved back to Mt. Pleasant because of the opportunities that have been opened to her here.

She told students that everything in their life should carry the question, “Why am I doing this?” And if they cannot say that it gives them joy, then they should try something new.

As a promoter of the arts, Johannsen said she doesn’t have a lot of free time and she doesn’t get a lot of sleep. She also stressed the importance of being willing to do everything, from cleaning bathrooms to making the budget, but being around creative people like her sustains her.

Johannsen also warned that in order to succeed, first you have to fail.

“Failure is the best teacher in the world,” Buffington added.

Johannsen said moving to Chicago shattered her ego but taught her that if performing was something she really wanted, she would have to work at it.

“That’s not to squash your dreams,” Johannsen said. “You have to intrinsically work for it.”

Johannsen said that while people interested in art, music or drama don’t always see the need to go to college, it’s a good place for artists to expand their worldview.

Buffington backed up Johannsen’s thought, saying that to be a better artist means to become a more well-rounded person and an expanded worldview through traveling and meeting people from other parts of the world.

“You want to have a diverse group of friends too; to study humans makes you a better actor,” Johannsen said.

After the seminars, students reflected on what they learned.

Amber Ortiz, who sat in on the art, music and drama seminar, said that she knew she was interested in the arts, but she never thought about the different career paths that could lead to such as being in the field of business or education.

Walking out of the seminar on manufacturing and logistics, which only three students attended, Brett Baccan said that he enjoyed learning about the opportunity in those fields, saying Jenny Moutrie, with Moutrie Trucking, and Jason Bender, with Lomont Molding, were helpful in answering his questions and giving real-world examples.

Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Chamber, celebrated Baccan’s response, saying that manufacturing was the most difficult seminar to get students signed up for, but one of the highest-paying careers they could choose.

Other professionals walked out of their classrooms with smiles on their faces, saying students were engaged in asking questions and some even asked about internship opportunities.

“As high schoolers, people are stressed about the future,” Baccan said. “It helps to see what (people) do and how.”

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