College and career adviser Kaylin Roby says it’s just as important for high school students to figure out what they don’t want to pursue as a career as it is to decide what they are interested in.

On Wednesday, around 350 juniors from Lewiston High School attempted to do just that on their first day of school as they descended upon the Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College.

The annual Connecting College to Careers event aims to give high schoolers a better sense of some of the options available to them once they graduate.

Roby, who is entering her fourth year as an adviser at Lewiston High School, said a lot of the students aren’t headed to four-year institutions.

“I think it’s just an awesome opportunity for our students,” she said of the event. “I think coming to Walla Walla to see the technical end of education is important, as well as just the two-year versus four-year (educational opportunities.)”

As students rotated through three different sessions, they were able to learn from industry leaders in nursing, and from representatives of Bentz Boats, The Catalyst Group, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Clearwater Valley Medical of Orofino and the Clarkston Fire Department.

Each session connected an educational path at WWCC to a career in the surrounding area.

Interim Fire Chief Ryan Baskett, of the Clarkston Fire Department, appealed to students who may one day want to become a nurse or a doctor. About 90 percent of what the department does is medical aid.

“We can be a stepping stone for your medical career as you move forward, and the fire side is a great career as well,” Baskett said. “There’s a ton of opportunities out there right now in fire and (emergency medical services).”

Students filtered out of a classroom in the nursing building to an ambulance and a fire engine parked outside. As firefighters and emergency medical technicians walked the students through some of the basics, 17-year-old Trever Kause was ready to try on the gear firefighters use.

Kause hadn’t considered a career with a fire department before, but after his experience Wednesday, he is now pondering it.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Kause said. “It sounds like a cool job. I would imagine it’s definitely stressful, but it also sounds nice.”

Kause is interested in pursuing a criminal justice degree and may one day become a police officer, he said.

“I just want to help people,” Kause said.

Over in WWCC’s welding lab, Bryan Bentz, of Bentz Boats, said welders are in high demand around the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and beyond.

The welding program, which was implemented two years ago, has helped Bentz meet a need that previously went unfilled. He had attempted to recruit employees from area institutions for his boat manufacturing business before, but learned that many of the programs didn’t offer much experience in aluminum-based welding.

“That’s all we do is aluminum, so to have a program like Walla Walla is trying to implement that is aluminum only is, to me, very important,” Bentz said. “You’re hoping to maybe get a little base of employees that do want to stay in the area.”

Welding instructor Jamie Knewbow said the program, which offers an associate’s degree and one-year certificates, is gaining popularity with the college’s students.

Miguel Inzunza, recruitment and marketing specialist for the Clarkston campus, walked the students through some of the options at the two-year college. He emphasized the importance of education.

“When you go to college, when you go to a university, or when you continue your education, you are gaining knowledge, and whatever knowledge you acquire, that’s going to be powerful for you,” Inzunza said. “So connecting college to careers is really important.”

While the high school juniors learned about the programs at WWCC, the seniors volunteered around the city during the sixth annual Twin County United Way Student Day of Caring.

“This is such a great way for our seniors to connect while helping others,” said Christina Cahill, a counselor at LHS. “Encouraging the students to engage in volunteering helps build a caring culture here at LHS and in the community.”

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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