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Career Day
Students explore career choices at Barton Community College
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Hundreds of students in grades 8-12 visited Barton Community College on Wednesday for the Career Technical Education Fair. Visiting students shown here learn about Barton’s Automotive program. - photo by Susan Thacker

College is still years away for most of the students who attended Barton Community College’s fourth annual Career Technical Education Fair on Wednesday. But even eighth grade is not too early for students to think about what they want to do in the future, said Barton Coordinator of Workforce Training Projects & Events Krystall Barnes.

Barnes and Vice President of Instruction and Student Services Elaine Simmons told college trustees that 477 students in grades 8-12 were signed up to attend Wednesday’s CTE Fair.

“(School districts) in the area have come to rely on this,” Simmons said, adding some schools outside of the area have also sent students.

There were hands-on demonstrations and representatives from a variety of programs, including automotive, criminal justice, nursing and other medical fields, welding and Information Technology. Some students already know what they want to do after high school, while others were just getting an idea of what is available.

Pedro Pina, a sophomore at Lyons High School, said he plans to take a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) class over the summer. Becoming a CNA is a prerequisite for anyone interested in enrolling in the nursing program, said Shannon Schreiner, a nursing instructor at the college.

Ellsworth High School freshmen Cady Hansen and Kate Wacker were among students who tried to listen to the heartbeat of “Sim Jr.,” a computer-programed medical patent. In the Criminal Justice presentation, students were shown weapons and other tools of the trade. Great Bend High School freshman Dakota Aumiller even volunteered to wear “belly chains” for a demonstration.

Major James Graham from the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility reminded students that the corrections field covers a multitude of careers. Kansas alone has eight prisons where approximately 10,000 men and women are incarcerated. Working with prisoners isn’t just about keeping them behind bars, he told the students.

“As correction officers, our job is to serve as role models to the inmates,” he said. Barton has a contract with the Kansas Department of Corrections to teach inmates at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility and at LCMHF vocational skills and help them earn GEDs, so they can lead productive lives after prison.

Students were reminded that high school provides a good opportunity to take classes that will give them a jump start on their career choice.

Great Bend Middle School Counselor Sheryl Neeland said the day was beneficial to eighth graders who attended. Most eighth graders have never visited a college campus but the students received a guided tour, she said.

“In the morning they had some students from the college rehearse a job interview — the right way and the wrong way,” Neeland said. By the time they are 14 years old, many students submit their first job applications, so the program was useful as well as entertaining.

The skits were part of a program on “essential skills,” an area emphasized at BCC. Also known as soft skills, these are the non-academic skills that employers say they look for when hiring.

Students could choose to spend a full day on campus or just come for the afternoon.