Job Shadow Day, a day where juniors from Kenai Central High School have an opportunity to learn about a specific type of career they are interested in, has been running since 1994. Colleen Ward was the brains behind the operation and ended up staying with the program for 11 years before handing over the reins to a special committee that includes people from all over the Kenai Peninsula.
The preparation starts at the beginning of the school year and goes right until to the very morning it takes place, with never-ending details to deal with, such as making sure that each student has adequate transportation, finding businesses to participate and preparing the 130 students for what it takes to survive in the work force.
Jason Carroll, the 2007 Kenai Chamber of Commerce president, remembers the long hours and late nights it took to make the experience an annual ordeal. Even though it is a long and sometimes tedious process to work through, his overall opinion on Job Shadow is that, "it's a worthwhile way to give back to the community."
Tina Baldridge, chamber executive director, has had to deal with logistics by helping match the students to the host and works with businesses to help contribute to the luncheon. Crunch time is the last couple months, making sure the businesses understand what they are doing and when it is going to happen.
People at the high school also put in many hours.
"It's a year-long process of planning and organizing that involves the English department, the counselors, the chamber of commerce and the working community of Kenai," said Vice Principal Loren Reese.
This unique experience is a branch of the School to Careers organization, which helped students transition into the work force after finishing school. The first couple of years it was a rocky start, using freshmen instead of juniors, until it was decided juniors think more along the line of career options.
"Even though it's met challenges along the way, and it's very time consuming for everyone involved ..., it's a good opportunity for businesses around the Kenai Peninsula to become involved with today's youth," Ward said.
Her goal when she created the program was to help kids get a feel of what it was like to be in the working world. She believes most of the adults involved with organizing recognize that even if the kids don't like their job shadow, it is still a successful day, because now they know it isn't the job for them.
The Job Shadow Program has a huge impact on the participants' lives. It helps businesses get involved with the high school kids of today, while at the same time assisting students in possibly figuring out what they want to do when they are ready to begin a career. It has been going strong for over a decade and there is no sign of it ending anytime soon.
"Kenai is a great place with a different variety of opportunities for students to work and return to and to make a living," Ward said. "You can have a quality life and make a great living staying in Kenai."
Sadie Hallmark is a junior at Kenai Central High School, who was an acting reporter for the Clarion as part of the Job Shadow Program.
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