High school students learn;br; about options for further study

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2000

Local business professionals and 107 public and private college representatives from vocational, college and military schools held ground in the gymnasium of Riverland Community College on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 06, 2000

Local business professionals and 107 public and private college representatives from vocational, college and military schools held ground in the gymnasium of Riverland Community College on Wednesday.

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More than 1,300 juniors and seniors from 14 area high schools attended the Career Day in the morning, with a College Fair in the afternoon.

High school counselors had a role in coordinating the event.

Amy Wager, Riverland’s director of marketing and public relations, said Wednesday’s exhibition is one of the bigger events that Riverland hosts.

Another option for graduating seniors lies in the various branches of the armed forces. Pvt. Chad Woitas, a graduate of Albert Lea High School, joined Army Staff Sgt. Charles Stone at the College Fair.

Woitas has been enlisted in the Army for about seven months, during which time he went through basic training and specialty training. Not completely sure about his plans after high school, Woitas said when he saw what the Army offered, he took the paper and signed up.

"I wanted to serve my country," he said. He added that his impression of the armed forces has changed for the better since he enlisted.

"It’s not at all like you expect from television. It’s not at all rolling around in the mud. It’s working hard and doing your best."

Stone, who is ready for retirement later this year after serving 20 years, said the Army uses a personal strengths inventory for prospective enlistees. The inventory of skills and strengths and likes and dislikes help the Army find a fit after basic training.

Stone said he graduated from high school in St. Paul and was unsure about what he wanted to do.

"I chased recruiters off for about two months and one day I went into the office with my tail between my legs."

In his 20 years since his enlistment, Stone has seen the Berlin Wall crumble and the Cold War end, and served his country as a soldier in the Persian Gulf War.

When asked whether he ever envisioned the position he is standing in back in high school, the answer Stone gave was simple, saying, "No way."

Having Stone’s guidance has been a plus and inspiration for Woitas in terms of what is possible in the armed forces. Hearing stories of experiences makes Woitas look forward to his adventures yet to come.

Shortly, Woitas will head off to Germany, where he will perform as an aviation mechanic. His main task will be repairing $16 million helicopters.

Emily Nelson, a recruiter from St. Olaf College, said informational mailings gets college information in the hands of students, but it’s hard to get a grasp on what a college can offer by limited contact at fairs such as Riverland’s.

"It allows students to get a feel for a wide array of opportunities at a particular college, but it’s up to the student to do the research about a school," Nelson said.

One student voiced an interest in fishing and may attend college to study fisheries management, especially because his dream is to be a professional fisherman with a sponsor.

The decision on what type of secondary education fits largely comes down the student’s personality.

Emily Sundet, a representative from Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, said a comprehensive four-year university features an environment that some may find too large.

"If a school has a major and they don’t mind larger classes and a larger setting, it may be right for them."

A trend has seen many four-year institutions begin to offer two-year associate degrees through a distance learning program, usually in conjunction with a community or technical college.

Austin High School junior Christina Brandon said she came away with a lot of information after Wednesday’s presentation. She said, that although she has a year of high school left, information has been coming through the mail and is now in the process of being narrowed down.

"I’d like to go to a four-year school with a good English program," Brandon said, adding that she had considered attending a college transfer program at a community college.

Jeanne Poppe, an organizer of the event, said the goal Wednesday was twofold: allow students to see what different career choices are out there and what they entail, and to see what educational institutions are out there for the careers.