Students Explore Futures at Virtual Career Day

Every year, Morrow County students get the opportunity to explore the question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” with their annual job shadow / career day activities. This year, COVID-19 was poised to keep the event from happening. So, a team of people decided to think outside the box.

 Kalie Davis is the Workforce Training Manager at the Port of Morrow and she works closely with Morrow County schools on several programs. Davis said when she and her intern, Morgan Orem, learned the pandemic would prevent the career event, they met with Riverside staff to discuss the option of providing a Virtual Career Day. “When Riverside staff said they were open to that idea, we also thought it would be a great opportunity to expand the experience to all juniors and seniors in Morrow County,” Davis said.

The Virtual Career Day was Thursday, October 22.  Intern Orem reached out to professionals from different sectors including healthcare, IT, electric utilities, trades, business, etc. They identified 20 different professionals who were interested in presenting to students, from businesses including Amazon Web Services, Boardman Fire, Boardman Police, Columbia River Health, NW Crane, Threemile Canyon Farms and Umatilla Electric.

 In order to make the process as easy as possible for students, Riverside High School math teacher Tyler Davis set up 20 different Google Meet links for each presentation. But first, they had to train the presenters, since Google Meet was a platform new to almost all of them. So they organized a few training sessions for presenters prior to Career Day.

 In the meantime, each school designated a lead person to reach out to students to find out what presentation they were interested in, send instructions and links and recruit teachers to volunteer as moderators. Those individuals were Leah Harris and Elizabeth Rosen at Riverside High, Marty Rhodes at Irrigon High, Jill Miller at Heppner High and Cydney McElligott from Ione School. Davis said it certainly would not have been possible without their help.

 Davis’ role was to communicate with presenters and send them links, instructions and lists of students. She and Orem also set up 20 Chromebooks with each Google Meet up and ready to go as a backup in case any teachers ran into challenges with the presentations. The first presentation was at 9:30 AM for Irrigon and Riverside and the second was at 10:45 AM for Heppner and Ione. All presentations were recorded so they can be shared with students who were not able to participate.

 Davis said it was extremely rewarding to see how creative all of the presenters were when sharing information through the virtual format. “So often things are being cancelled due to the pandemic because it is no longer an option to offer the opportunity safely. I was very grateful to both our industry professionals and leadership at each high school who were open to making this experience a reality for students in Morrow County,” she said.

 Marie Cain, an accountant with Threemile Canyon Farms, was a presenter and said she was pleased with the level of student participation. “I was extremely impressed with the student engagement, even virtually. I was asked a bunch of questions and could tell the students were there to learn and grow.”

 Layla Castillo, a junior at Riverside Jr/Sr High School, said her experience at Virtual Career Day was very positive, “I had an amazing experience to gain more knowledge on what it means to become an engineer!”

Adam Cole, captain/training officer with the Boardman Rural Fire District, said it was great to see young adults interested in Emergency Services. “Wanting to give back to the community is one of the greatest rewards!” 

 Morrow County School District Superintendent Dirk Dirksen said he was grateful for the teamwork to make the event happen. “We appreciate the long-standing partnership that local business and industry has had in our county to make activities like this available for our students. This is one of many examples of how much the citizens of Morrow County value the education of our youth.”