Education

Prairie takes pride in getting students ready for future

HS journalism: High school offers career fairs, job shadows and internships

An Iowa City firefighter shows students how to navigate through wires during a job shadow organized by Workplace Learning Connection. Prairie High School use programs like this to help students figure out their next move. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
An Iowa City firefighter shows students how to navigate through wires during a job shadow organized by Workplace Learning Connection. Prairie High School use programs like this to help students figure out their next move. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — High School can be a scary time in one’s life.

It is the final stage before adulthood. Students are constantly being asked “what are your plans after high school?”

Although this is seen as a burden to most high school students, it is very important.

Students at Prairie High School are incredibly lucky because there are so many people within our school invested in making sure all students are ready for life after graduation. Whether this is for a four-year university, two-year community college, or heading straight into the world of work, the student service team at Prairie will make sure each student is prepared.

This great team consists of many individuals and they all play a huge part in making everything run smoothly.

One specific opportunity all students can participate in is the many career fairs held at school. In previous years, the only way to participate in career fairs was by transporting a lot of students to one big event. This cost the district a lot of money in transportation fees, so the student service team decided to adjust.

“So I said, ‘let’s bring the businesses here, let’s have them focus on a pathway,’” said Mary McWilliams, the transitions coordinator for the College Community School District. “Smaller but more refined each month. And they have to be interactive. We will not let businesses come in and just stand and hand out brochures.”

Students are asked to complete a quick survey after each career fair. According to the data taken after the medical career fair held on March 1, 95.5 percent of students agreed they learned something about either a college or career opportunity from the career fair.

As a result of participating in these career fairs, many students long for more information on a certain occupation. This is where job shadows come in to play. According to Mary Gudenkauf, the career development specialist of College Community, “Job shadows are the perfect way to get a glimpse of what a given career is all about. Each student who applies for a shadow is placed in an area of their choice, with a community professional.”

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This experience allows students career spectrum to broaden. Students are allowed to participate in one job shadow each year. This is because of the low time commitment. It is usually a few hours, a morning or an afternoon. Students can find out if they see themselves pursuing this job in the future, or if they can’t stand it. Either way, they gain a lot of knowledge through a great experience.

Internships are when a student is “working” for a certain company or organization. Internships should be more focused on a career that a student is seriously considering. This is because there is a much higher time commitment than a job shadow. Most internships are between 45 and 90 hours.

Internships allow minors to know what it would be like to go to that specific place to work every day.

“There is a direct relationship between career fairs and internships,” said Lora Danker, the secondary Gifted and Talented Differentiation Specialist within College Community School District, “All students are invited to apply for internships, but not all will get one. The process is very competitive.

“It is a game changer when you have an internship on your resume. When you get into the competitive environment of career, you need something to set yourself apart. We can’t emphasize enough how important internships are.”

A survey was recently sent out to Prairie students, asking some questions on the importance of career exposure within high school. When asked if they agree experiences such as career fairs, job shadows and internships are helping them prepare for their lives outside of the high school walls, 80.2 percent said yes. That is a very promising number.

“These experiences helped me narrow down my options for potential career fields and helped me find something that I actually enjoyed doing,” said Grace Estenson, a sophomore at Prairie,

Clearly, Prairie offers a plethora of options to help each student gain a deeper understanding of specific careers they show interest in. It is apparent Prairie cares deeply about its students’ futures.

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On May 3, Prairie is offering a career fair in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with the Iowa National Guard. Interested students can sign up in the guidance office.

Click here for additional information on potential job shadows and internships.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.