Students STEP Up to sample careers

Published 8:27 am Tuesday, March 21, 2017

By Jennifer Lawhead

Austin Aspires

Austin Aspires was formed in 2014 with the vision that “Austin will be recognized as a leader in education with a culture of educational excellence, cradle to career, embraced in every aspect of our community.”

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After significant data collection in the community, five aspirational goals were set to achieve this vision. One of these goals says “Our community will provide equal access to opportunities which encourage our learners to explore areas of personal interest and prepare for post-secondary education or career.” As a community we want to move from asking our students “What do you want to do for your future career?” to “What problem do you want to solve?”

Our community has a number of programs that support students exploring areas of personal interest. STEP Up interns have the opportunity to receive job training and then work for pay at Austin businesses to gain job experience, explore career interests, and build professional skills. A mentorship class is offered at Austin High School where students will spend 35 hours throughout the semester with a mentor in their chosen career field. This course offers a unique opportunity for seniors to explore a career that allows them to have hands-on experience in that career. The Hormel Institute offers an Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program with The Hormel Institute’s scientists. Interns work on research projects to expand their knowledge of basic research and to learn about equipment and techniques that are not generally available in undergraduate academic programs. They also offer guided tours for sixth graders in the community. Our two community high schools also host many clubs that afford students the opportunity to learn about careers of interest. DECA (prepares future leaders in the areas of marketing, finance, hospitality and management) and HOSA (development of future health professionals) are two such examples.

Based on feedback from Austin Aspires’ Student Advisory Board (comprised of students from Austin and Pacelli High Schools), we learned that students wanted opportunities to have short-term opportunities to explore different careers in the community. Therefore, Austin Aspires facilitated connections between AHS and Pacelli students with hosts in our community for half day job shadowing experiences this March.

Prior to the students leaving for their job shadowing experiences, one teacher stated “The kids are pretty excited. They are trying to pretend not to be, but a lot of them of them are dressed up, and you can just feel the nervous energy buzzing around a bunch of kids who know they’re doing something they care about today.”

After hosting the students one of our community partners said “It was a wonderful experience for our program and staff. The students who were in attendance were respectful, engaged, eager and a blessing to have.”

Thank you to the Austin Fire Department, Austin Police Department, Austin Public Library, Bollingberg Chiropractic, City of Austin, Mower County Health and Human Services, Hill, Larson and Walth, Hormel Foods, Lewis Physical Therapy, Mower County Court System, Pacelli Preschool, US Bank and Wee Learning Center for hosting students for this amazing opportunity.

We plan to expand this opportunity in the future. If you are interested in hosting students for a half day job shadowing experience in the 2017-2018 school year, please contact Austin Aspires at 507-437-0920 or