By Cadance Bitterich
and Landon Dubber
Around 100 Kenai Central High School students were out and around Kenai and Soldotna on Wednesday, following professionals around for Job Shadow Day.
KCHS counselor Jade Mann said the program is a result of a partnership between KCHS, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Job Center. She said it has been going strong for nearly 25 years.
“It just gives the students a really great experience and gives them an idea of what it is like to have a job and be out there working,” she said.
At the Kenai Police Department, three students shadowed Officer Megan Swangel.
Shadowing students would spend the day in the life of a police officer, Swangel said, getting a general idea of what police and other law enforcement do. She said they would visit several other agencies as part of the experience.
Swangel said local students have a lot to offer to the local police department.
“I think it would be so awesome to have a local person, a local kid, grow up here in Kenai and then decide to be an officer,” Swangel said. “They have the most experience with the community.”
Kenai Fire Department Deputy Chief John Harris said students took a tour of both the primary fire department and the airport facility, that they saw a daily equipment inspection, visited a paramedic class and would see the administrative side of the work.
Harris said Job Shadow holds a lot of value as an opportunity for students to weigh their options. He said that was true both for students who thought they knew what they wanted to be and for students who “checked a box.”
“It’s kind of rare for kids in high school to know exactly what they want to do,” he said. “It’s OK to be exposed to different things because you might be surprised where you end up or what you want to do.”
Job Shadow is also an opportunity for the department to have a positive outreach with older youths, Harris said. He said he enjoyed the opportunity to have mature conversations with them.
Janice Villegas, a nurse and hospital supervisor at Central Peninsula Hospital, was shadowed by four students. She said she spent the day showing them what nurses do everywhere around the hospital.
“I’m showing them everything from the emergency room, ICU department, to care coordination, infection control, wound care. They’re kind of getting a blanket orientation,” said Villegas.
Villegas said she hopes that local students will complete college and then come back to work in their hometown community.
Job Shadow is a unique opportunity that KCHS is able to afford its students, Mann said. She said KCHS is the only school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that offers it.
“It’s just a really great collaboration for KCHS and our community. It just really brings all of us together,” she said.