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Classes give students 'real world' early career training

Dillon Jackson, a junior at Park Rapids Area High School, washes a car at Park Rapids Auto Centre. He has a job at the auto center through a work experience program at the high school. After high school, Jackson said he would like to continue working on cars and own his own auto shop.

Park Rapids students are discovering possible careers through work experience classes.

Brenda Johnson and Angie Kuehn prepare students at Park Rapids Area High School for the real world through these classes.

"We get them ready to be an adult," Kuehn said.

Some of the skills taught through the business seminar class include working on resumes, interviewing and employability skills.

Jennie Beldo, a junior, is working for Erin Christensen's day care. She likes working with kids and has gained experience working each day at the day care.

"You really have to work at cooperating with the kids," Beldo said.

She assists in watching the kids play outside and helping to serve snacks.

"It's been really fun," she said. "But I've learned that I'm lucky to have a job."

After high school, Beldo has aspirations to become a pediatric nurse. She thinks that working with kids now will help her in the future.

Part of the work experience program includes classroom work. The other part includes working outside the school at an area business.

"We work on those skills like getting to work on time, working as part of a team, conflict/resolution," Johnson said. "We can teach those skills here at school and they're reinforced at the work place."

Employers sign a work agreement to hire a student and help them learn the work.

"Some of the students who are in this program, this helps them stay in school," Johnson said. "It's hands-on, relevant, authentic learning."

For others, the work experience program shows them a glimpse of a future career.

"If they want to do something as a career, they come up with a plan to get there," Kuehn said. "What school, what training they need past high school."

Between 30 and 40 kids are part of the work experience programs offered by Kuehn and Johnson.

Work sites include a variety, from office work, a salon, a café or auto shops.

Dillon Jackson, a junior, works at Park Rapids Auto Centre. He has worked there for about a year.

"I really wanted a job working with cars," he said. "It's my hobby."

Since working with Mark Andersen, owner of the auto center, he has learned to do oil changes and rotate and balance tires. He also helps wash cars.

"It's been fun. The tires have been a little harder but I'm learning," Jackson said.

After high school, Jackson said he would like to continue working on cars and eventually go to school.

"I'd like to own my own shop someday," he said.

Andersen said he has seen Jackson grow since he started working for him.

"Dillon's really opened up and likes what he does," he said. "The more he learns, the more he gets to learn."

Andersen has liked working with school to help prepare students for the future.

Johnson and Kuehn are appreciative of the employers who step up and support the school.

"There aren't as many electives as there used to be but this is one that really helps out some kids," Kuehn said. "It's a really beneficial program."