Experience was the best teacher for many Kenai Central High School students this week.
On Wednesday, more than 100 juniors from KCHS were sent out to the workforce to participate in the 21st annual job shadow program. Students were able to get an up-close look at real work environments at places such as the Central Peninsula Hospital, the police department and Tesoro.
Wednesday was the culmination of months of preparation.
Starting last December, students met with school counselors and took placement tests that matched them with suitable jobs, said Kenai Chamber of Commerce President Johna Beech.
Students then chose three jobs they found most interesting and the chamber tried to match students with their top choice. Beech said the Peninsula Job Center then helped students craft resumes and cover letters to provide to the employers.
Beech said each student has different preferences, and they are often eclectic.
“We have stuff that is wild, like ‘I want to be a police officer, I want to be a ballet dancer, or I want to be a coroner.’ The kids are so random,” Beech said.
The program is a one of a kind. Beech said as far as she knows, it’s the only one in the country that is organized through partnership between three entities — a high school, chamber of commerce and job center.
Beech said having the students go out and join the work force is important for the students and the community.
“To be able to encourage our youth to come back and put down roots helps us not only keep our community thriving, it keeps the workforce going,” she said.
KCHS junior Austin Brazell said he wants to be a history teacher in the future. As a result, he went to observe the history class at Soldotna High School for part of his job shadow program.
Brazell said the program was helpful.
“It really reinforced the idea that I want to be a teacher,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
Dalton Dosko, another Kenai junior, also enjoyed the day. Because Dosko wants to be a psychiatrist, he was able to visit the Dena’ina Wellness Center. He said the experience opened his eyes to the career possibilities available.
“It makes me think about more options in the same field and area,” Dosko said.
After completing the job shadowing, students met at Kenai Christian Church for a free lunch provided by businesses, such as Paradisos, McDonald’s, Arby’s and Coca Cola.
Students then listened to Borough Application Developer Mike Crawford and Borough Mayor Mike Navarre talk about their career paths. The guest speakers, both Kenai Central graduates, spoke of the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and discussed the opportunities available on the peninsula.
“Go out and do things,” Crawford said. “You’re exploring now. Keep going in that way. Always keep trying to better yourself.”
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.