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Be Your Best and R-STEP summer academy students talk to professionals about future careers

For students looking to advance their futures and wondering what their career fields will be like, they found their answers in the very people who are working that industry.

Riverland sponsored a career exploration event for students enrolled in two summer academies called “Career Cafe” on Thursday. Students who were a part of the Be Your Best and Riverland Science Technology Engineering Preparatory (R-STEP) interacted with professionals from area businesses, who then shared information about what it took to be successful in their career field.

The summer academies are free for area youth from ages 16 to 22, which is funded by The Hormel Foundation, Minnesota Office of Higher Education, The Alliance for Educational Equity and Riverland Community College Foundation.

R-STEP is in its second year and focuses on STEM subjects for students already in college, while Be Your Best Summer Academy builds skills in math and English for students preparing for college. This program has been operating for 14 years and has had more than 320 graduates.

Pray Reh, Char Paw and Poe Thu, who are students of the Be Your Best program, talk about potential careers they want to pursue during the Career Cafe held at Riverland Community College.

About 18 industries were represented, such as law enforcement, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, art, education and more. Using a “speed dating format” students got to choose one of the career areas they wanted to learn the most about and join representatives from that field for lunch and longer dialogue.

“The students get to ask three questions and choose three careers that they would like to get into,” said Betsy Goetz with Be Your Best. “They are getting a real world perspective about what their dream jobs are like.”

Several R-STEP students found the Career Cafe to be a great resource in figuring out what they wanted to pursue as a career upon graduation.

“It’s interesting to learn more about this field and to get more information,” said Lee Reh, an R-STEP student. “I really enjoy talking with the people who are actually in the job.”

Eh Soe, a Be Your Best student, listens to conversations held by Laura Helle about various careers that he could possibly pursue in the future. This was part of the Career Cafe held at Riverland Community College.

Another student from Be Your Best found the sessions to be engaging and the interactions with career professionals super helpful.

“I like it,” said Poe Thu, a Be Your Best student. “You get to ask a lot of questions about careers that you wouldn’t necessarily know anything about.”

Those who were helping facilitate the Career Cafe were excited to see students engaging with community partners and potential future employers in Austin. Some believed that this event was able to inspire students about their career choices for the future.

“They’re very engaged,” said Nick Schiltz, agricultural science instructor for the Center of Agricultural and Food Science. “They get an opportunity firsthand from the people who have the job that they want. It’s so important that these students see that they have the capability to get the job that they want.”

One of the employers who was participating in the Career Cafe was Daniel Donnelly, an attorney at law. He shared his experiences of being an attorney with several students and answered any questions that they had about going into law.

“They really had a lot of very good questions,” Donnelly said. “I was very impressed with their enthusiasm and curiosity. It’s very nice to hear about their career goals. I’m very happy that I came. It’s wonderful hearing about what they’re doing to further their career goals. I wish I had something like this when I was in high school.”