Preparing for the future: Lexington High School Career Day

Daniel Maganda, left, with Doane University, speaks with four Lexington High School seniors during the LHS Career and College Fair on Wednesday morning.

LEXINGTON — A senior in high school getting ready to graduate has multiple options available to them, go to college, join the work force right away. To help them with this transition the Lexington Career and College Fair Day presented the options available to these students.

Dawson Area Development, DAD, Assistant Stephanie Novoa said there were 40 different area businesses, organizations and colleges who were a part of the first half the day long Career and College Fair Day.

DAD works with the Lexington High School counselors to gear the event toward seniors who will soon be graduating. The day is divided into several sessions, the morning started with the career fair, afternoon sessions consisted of college applications and a mock job interview session.

“Part of DAD’s mission is to retain our workforce,” Novoa said, “once students go off to college, they can come back to the area for a career.”

The mock interviews would be done with 228 seniors by 63 local volunteers, the interviews would be 30 minutes each and the volunteers would act as employers, interviewing the seniors for a job.

Several of the questions were,

-What job experience or extracurricular activities have you been a part of?

- What are your goals in the next five years, how will you achieve those?

-What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?

-Tell me about a time when you used leadership skills?

The students would then be rated on their eye contact, posture, handshake, dress, facial expressions, voice volume, level of relaxation, attitude and their responses.

“We are thankful for the community support,” Novoa said of the volunteers, “it’s a good learning experience for the seniors.”

Some of the colleges at the career fair included Central Community College, Colby Community College, Concordia University, Hastings College, Joseph’s College of Cosmetology, Mid-Plains Community College, University of Nebraska Omaha, Kearney and Lincoln and York College.

Businesses included Black Hills Energy, Downey Drilling Inc., Lexington Regional Health Center, Orthman Manufacturing, Orthman Community YMCA, United States Postal Service, etc.

Law enforcement and first responders were the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department, Lexington Police Department, Nebraska State Patrol and Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

Sergeant Keith Williamson and Deputy Chris Shook represented the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office. Williamson said the sheriff’s office’s goal was to spread awareness about the law enforcement and correctional opportunities they have to offer.

“We want to show students we are approachable and easy to talk with,” Williamson said.

Students who are interested in law enforcement with the sheriff’s office must first be 21 years of age, certified, obtain a high school diploma or GED and have a valid license.

Corrections officers must be 19 years old but most do not have any law enforcement power, said Williamson.

Williamson they stress to those who are interested to continue into secondary education. He said different backgrounds in education help in law enforcement.

On the other side of the room, the Nebraska State Patrol was represented by Amanda Hunt, Robert Golden and Tim Flick.

The NSP’s goal of the career fair was “to give the youth of Lexington an opportunity to become law enforcement officers,” Golden said.

Reasons a student interested in law enforcement might want to join the NSP included the pay, benefits and the numerous opportunities which are offered, they each said. Hunt described the NSP as “very specialized.”

Flick said the NSP is the state’s only full service law enforcement agency and handles everything from drugs, internet crimes, homicide, investigations, SWAT teams, etc.

Training in the NSP is handled in-house where prospective troopers can learn everything from firearms, accident reconstruction, defensive and pursuit driving. The structure is quite centralized, they said.

The State Patrols of Iowa and South Dakota even train with the NSP.

In the first responder category, the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department was present, represented by Assistant Rescue Chief Rex Adams and Training Officer Matt Fitzgerald.

Adams said the LVFD is always looking for new volunteers and want students to know about the opportunities to become EMT’s and firefighters either as volunteers or as a career.

“It allows them to take pride in their community,” Fitzgerald said.

Adams said 70 percent of the nation’s fire departments are made up of volunteers and on the whole they are hurting for more volunteers.

Fitzgerald said they hold training nights twice a month which involve a variety of situations. In May the LVFD held a joint training with several local fire departments involving a mass casualty situation with a school bus and several vehicles.

The training pays off, earlier in the year the LVFD spent three nights out at Jim Kelly Field training for a plane crash. On Wednesday, Sept. 25 an aircraft crashed near the airfield after an attempted landing which the LVFD responded to.

Anyone, not just students, can join the LVFD by getting in contact with a firefighter.

The Orthman Community YMCA is a great place for students to get their first job experience Program Director Chris Cox and Child Watch Coordinator Amber Holbrook said.

“This is a great entry level job,” Cox said, “students can do a myriad of jobs and get their foot in the door for later careers.”

Holbook said the YMCA “loves hiring high school students and we can work with them due to our flexible hours.”

Students who need to get in volunteer hours can also easily accomplish this by helping out at the YMCA, Cox said.

There are also opportunities at the YMCA for those who wish to start a career with the businesses. Holbrook provides a prime example of this, she worked at YMCA’s throughout high school and college , working “Y to Y,” as she said and eventually entered into a management position here in Lexington.

“You can’t put a price on experience,” Cox said, “we look at people who have worked with us before.”

When asked why it was important to reach students at this point in their lives, Cox said, “They are starting to gain independence and independence costs money.” He said this shift can lead to former students making stable life choices later on and working can help secure this independence.

“It gets people ready for the next step,” Holbrook said.

Black Hills Energy provides opportunities for those students who may want to jump directly into the workforce after finishing high school, Al Copper said.

The company offers more than just working on appliances, such as administrative positions, compliance staff, IT workers, human resources. The whole infrastructure behind Black Hills, Copper said.

“This is a time of change for them,” Copper said of the seniors present, “they need to solidify their plans if they plan to work or go to college.”

Lexington Police Department School Resource Officer Kareem McDougall said the LPD was seeking to educate students about law enforcement, that their goal is keeping the community safe.

Opportunities exist to begin working with the LPD which include internships and ride-alongs. Information about the LPD can be found online at their website, Facebook page or by speaking to officers.

McDougall said these seniors were about to come to a “crossroads,” in their life, but after working with these students as the SRO he said they all have, “a good head on their shoulders,” to make the decisions which will impact their futures.

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