White Wolf career day

Stewart Cooper leads Sheldon High School sophomores through the White Wolf Web printing plant in Sheldon, explaining how the printing process works along the way.

REGIONAL—With four schools, 13 business tours and about 300 students, the third annual O’Brien County Career Day was the biggest event thus far.

Sophomores from Sheldon, South O’Brien, Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn and MMCRU high schools took part in the event Friday, April 26.

The event featured a keynote speaker Timothy Snyder, author of “That College Book: Everything Nobody Told Us about Life After High School.”

He shared his experiences that followed high school graduation, including uncertainty of the future and amassing college debt. Snyder graduated from Sheldon High School in 2005.

The author noted that he, like many others, went from high school to an expensive four-year college despite being unsure of what he wanted to do. Looking back on it, he is happy where he ended up but wishes he could have made different decisions along the way; especially from a financial standpoint.

“Life after high school is not some one-size-fits-all solution, despite what a lot of people might tell you,” Snyder told the sophomores. “I had a friend who at 17 was more mature and responsible than I think I am now. She always had a plan.”

‘It’s you’

Snyder’s friend even anticipated that her interests and goals were likely to change after high school, so she planned to attend community college while figuring out her next step.

Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder, a 2005 Sheldon High School graduate, serves as the keynote speaking during O’Brien County Career Day.

“She was all set to go until she talked to one of her teachers, specifically her favorite teacher whose opinion she trusted more than anyone else’s,” Snyder said. “That teacher said to her, ‘You are too good for community college. Community college is beneath you and you need to go to a four-year university. And so, trusting this teacher’s opinion, that’s what she did. Two years later, I got to sit in a car with her as she cried her eyes out and sobbed and said more than anything how she wished she could have gone back and undone that decision — that she should have just stuck to her original plan — that she was right.”

He reinforced to the sophomores that their next couple years in high school will be filled with advice from peers, teachers and counselors.

“These people are going to have great intentions for you. They’re going to want the best for you, but that doesn’t mean they’re right,” Snyder said. “You should hear their thoughts, share your opinions, but at the end of the day it’s you who has to make the choice.”

He noted that there are about 30 million jobs in the United States with an average salary of about $55,000 per year that do not require a four-year college degree.

“An event like this is really cool to really showcase the opportunities even right here,” he said.

‘Possible careers’

The O’Brien County Career offered tours of businesses in Archer, Calumet, Paullina, Primghar, Sanborn, Sheldon and Sutherland for the sophomores.

Along with the 13 businesses toured, an additional 16 had stations at the Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center on the campus of Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.

“It’s just awesome to see our students getting this kind of exposure and really just honing in that O’Brien County is such a great place for these kids,” said Sheldon High School counselor Shelby Bosma. “Opening up their eyes to really how many opportunities are available is just awesome for me as a counselor.”

Jose Ramirez paints via virtual reality

Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School sophomore Jose Ramirez paints a truck in virtual reality at the Maintainer Corporation of Iowa hub.

The health-care field was represented at last year’s career day for the first time, joining manufacturing. This year featured opportunities in agriculture with a tour of C-S Agrow service, a grain storage, drying and material handling dealer located in Calumet.

“The things that we’ve all learned about during career day is the possible careers that are in our area that we possibly didn’t know about, and how they could change our lives by staying around even here,” said Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School sophomore Olivia Grooters.

“I liked going to Sanford,” South O’Brien High School sophomore Kaylee Jacobs said of Sanford Sheldon Medical Center. “It was really fun to see the different parts of the hospital. It made me realize it’s not just doctors that are there. It’s a lot of jobs and a lot of people that work there.”

A 30-person committee began planning the event in September. The group met monthly and will meet again May 23 to recap what worked and where improvements can be made before taking a couple months off.

“Out-migration is a concern. All of our employers are telling us they need workers and our college has a lot of skilled trade courses, so we decided we are going to meet with the counselors,” said Kiana Johnson, executive director of the O’Brien County Economic Development Corporation. “It just takes a lot of people. There’s a lot that goes on. We’re really thankful to have such great organizations. It takes a huge commitment for the businesses.”