‘I Know I’ve Got a Lot to Learn’

Students Explore Possible Futures in MiCareerQuest

CREDIT: Linda Odette

Sostika Monger realizes she needs help in mastering the process of fulfilling a longtime dream.

So in between peering at X-rays and handling prosthetics, the East Kentwood sophomore gained valuable experience toward entering the field of pediatrics during Thursday’s third annual MiCareerQuest at DeVos Place.

Sostika said nursing has always interested her. After taking enough related high school classes to confirm that’s the career direction she intends to take, she was thrilled with the opportunity to discuss the field with health care professionals.

“I learned a lot,” said Sostika, one of about 8,500 students in grades 6-12 who attended. “I know I’ve got a lot to learn. That’s why I’m here.” MiCareerQuest featured stations on manufacturing, information technology, health and construction. The event was started in 2015 by Kent ISD Career Readiness, Michigan Works!, West Michigan Works! and the Construction Workforce Development Alliance, in response to employers’ need for future talent in those fields. It included students from seven West Michigan counties, who were able to speak for up to 25 minutes with more than 100 employers as well as representatives from higher education.

Sostika, who will begin taking college prep classes next year, said it was the perfect opportunity to further her knowledge of nursing. She was able to do everything from working on a mechanical lift for patients to learning about nutrition and viewing replicas of human organs. “I’m getting firsthand experience and training that I need,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse and I love babies. This is a big help to me.”

Options for the Uncertain

While the event helps steer students toward an eventual vocation, the employers are happy to share their knowledge, said Julie Buffington, a nurse for the Metron Integrated Health System. She said professionals filled in many blanks for students. “You have to have a strong desire to apply yourself,” Buffington said of advice she gives them. “But there are a lot of opportunities out there.”

The day was a success even for students who have no firm career plans. Kalub Scholl, a sophomore at Northview East Campus High School, said he would eventually like a future in either football or basketball. But while playing either would be his first choice, Kalub said he is also preparing for related fields in business or medicine. “It’s a challenge and I know there’s a lot more to do,” Kalub said. “But this helps me see opportunity. That’s a good thing because some people don’t get the chance to explore things for themselves.” The day offered firsthand experience that often can’t be found in schools, he added.

“It helps us see the specifics of things we want to do and get information about them,” he said. “I’ve talked to people today who have helped me understand want I want to do and also help me with social skills.” Northview East Campus math teacher Josh Clapp said the event lets students know they need more than just a plan A. “Basketball or football might not work out, because they don’t work out for most kids,” Clapp said. “We need to help them with the motivation to experience something beyond the now. They need to think long term, outside the here and now.”

The event’s growth has impressed the organizers. “It gets better and better,” said Career Readiness consultant Eric Kelliher. “What’s amazing is the collaborative effort. Everyone feels the energy of pulling together to show the multitude of options for the students.”

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