Standing with the Shadows

Posted: Tuesday, March 02, 2004

So when did you decide what you wanted to be when you grew up, what school would be best to help you meet your goals, and what any of your interests were really like in a 9 to 5 setting.

For Kenai Central High School students that have participated in the Job Shadow program, there is a quick answer to those questions: Job Shadow Day. For nearly a decade a group of dedicated volunteers headed up by Colleen Ward, Sal Matero, and Dennis Dunn, have organized the Peninsula's only Job Shadow program. The results have been the opportunity for over 1,000 KCHS juniors and seniors to have, since the programs inception, to have a real life encounter with a career that interests them, "It's an opportunity for kids in Kenai to see what they can do in the future and what structure there is to support them and what exactly they will have to commit to in pursing a particular career," said Matero.

"The message that every job shadow host is conveying to the students is that there are opportunities in Alaska for Alaskan youth and particularly on the Kenai Peninsula for our Kenai youth and to help them make decisions about where fit in the fabric of our community and our future work force," said Colleen Ward, veteran chairperson of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce education committee.

In a descriptive article that later appeared in the Peninsula Clarion one shadow who spent her day with staff members at the Clarion wrote, "As juniors, most of us have no idea what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Being given the opportunity to shadow any career we are interested in is an amazing opportunity, and not one of us took it for granted. It was an incredible day! All of us got to try something new and exciting, an activity directly related to our careers," wrote Kira Matiya, a KCHS junior.

Casey Hershberger, a Kenai police officer who graduated from KCHS in 1997 told a group of more than 200 students and sponsors assembled for lunch at the Kenai Christian Church, that you don't always know what your looking for or what you want to do before entering college. Hershberger, obtained a degree in business administration before returning to the Kenai Peninsula, "I was looking for a job, but I really hesitated turning in my application to the KPD, because I thought what will I do if they hire me," laughed Hershberger, then told the rest of the story about finding the career where he can place the passion of his life. Jim Hakkinen, a maintenance planner at Tesoro also addressed the group and told of finding his way home to Kenai, "We'd all love you guys to go out, get your education and come back to work here, but wherever you end up, I encourage you to pursue a career that you are passionate about. Do something that grabs a hold of you, work with passion and you won't fail," said Hakkinen. 138 students and 55 businesses participated in Job Shadow 2004. Nearly 300 enjoyed lunch at the Kenai Christian Church catered by Arby's and McDonalds.

Job Shadow started in 1995 when KCHS developed a partnership with the Kenai Chamber of Commerce to promote and provide career experiences for its students. One of the originators of the program John Lillivek says the Job Shadow program is very successful, "Students return to school with reality and enthusiasm for the career they selected. Sometimes the day can serve to identify that the student has made the wrong choice for his or her future," said Lillivek. In the past students have participated in the delivery of a baby, assisting in surgeries on people and animals and actually flying airplanes. According to Colleen Ward, plans are already way for Job Shadow 2005 and anyone interested in joining the committee or becoming a sponsor is encouraged to contact the Kenai Chamber.

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