On Wednesday, something extraordinary happened on the central Kenai Peninsula. Actually it's been happening every year for 14 years.
That's how long the Job Shadow Program has been going on at Kenai Central High School.
The Job Shadow Program is where high school juniors make a possible career choice and spend a half a day at a business as close to that choice as they can get.
In other words, if a student has aspirations about being a journalist, they spend a half-day at the Clarion learning from reporters and editors and experiencing firsthand what it's like to interview and write a story and make deadline.
Now imagine that this is happening all over the central peninsula more than 100 times.
The idea must be catching on with the students, because a record number took part in the program this year. There were 129 juniors learning about their career choice.
For some, it was the opportunity of a lifetime; for others, they realized just how bad of an idea it was. The good news, though, is that they still have plenty of time to look around.
That's the idea.
Colleen Ward gets credit for being the brains behind setting up the operation in 1994. Ward stayed with the program for 11 years before handing it over to a special committee that includes people from all over the peninsula.
It takes an incredible amount of work and coordination to put this program together. The efforts between the chamber and school start early in the school year and culminate into a frenzied final month lining up businesses and making sure everyone who wants the chance to take part gets to.
What's also impressive about this program is the numbers. According to Jon Lillevik, a KCHS counselor, the school generally has about 110 students participate each year. Give or take a few and the total number of students adds up to between 1,400 and 1,450, he said.
Five of those 1,450 spent Wednesday morning at the Clarion. Jake Daniel and Hanna Sparhawk learned the ropes about our composition department. Dillon Stuart learned what a photojournalist does, and Benjamin Matson and Sadie Hallmark became veteran reporters.
You'll be able to read Benjamin and Sadie's work in Tuesday's Schools section.
After all the students spent the morning on the job, they met at the Kenai Christian Church for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
There they got the opportunity to hear from Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, who told them how many different work hats she's worn so far.
They heard from Matt Streiff of Edward Jones, who told them the importance of health and relationships; from Ryan Baldridge of Tesoro, who shared that it's OK to not know exactly what you want to do right away, but to keep searching; and from Jason Carroll of First National Bank, who advised them to make wise choices, because what they do adds up as they move down the road.
All the words were wise, perhaps a little overwhelming for a junior in high school, but realistic, nonetheless.
These students learned it is time to start thinking about their future, and there is a lot to think about.
They also learned the businesses and people in this community support them. They are cheering them on, wanting the best for them and hoping they succeed no whatever they choose to do.
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