Broadening horizons: Kenai students get hands-on look at careers

While efforts continue to broaden Alaska’s economic base and create more job opportunities for Alaskans, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce Job Shadow program is an opportunity for Kenai Central High School juniors to get up close and personal to the career pathways that already exist in the Central Peninsula.


For 24 years the Kenai Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the School District and Peninsula Job Service has coordinated a chance for KCHS juniors to choose a profession they may be interested in pursuing and spend the day at that work place to see if it is truly a career they wish to pursue and how they will need to prepare for it academically.

“It takes a lot of work, but with our partners at the school district and Job Service it’s a very successful event every year. From the time we select a date the teachers work with the students doing aptitude testing on what their interests are. We receive that list from the teachers and the chamber starts the process of matching the students with the local businesses of interest. Then Job Service meets with the students to discuss how to write a resume and how to present themselves what type of questions to ask as a job shadow,” explained Kenai Chamber CEO Johna Beech.

According to Beech 115 students were matched with more than 30 businesses in the community with the most interest in the health care industry, which is also the largest employer on the Peninsula.

“Things shift and change from year to year but the two top this year were nurses and engineers with everything else in-between from welding to baking and writing. It does give the kids who even want to get their education Outside a chance to see what opportunities await them here when they come home,” said Beech.

Bruce Gabriel of Big G Electric found it interesting that his shadow was the grandson of the man who gave him his first job when he was growing up.

“My shadow was Adam Trujillo. My first job ever was washing fish for Adam’s grandfather at Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods. The Trujillo family has a tradition of hard work which they instilled in me and my brothers and it gave me a great start. I credit my success today to working with Adam’s grandfather so it is really interesting to have life come full circle and now be able to give back to the community and the next generation through the Job Shadow program,” said Gabriel in an interview.

Over at Everything Bagels, one of the newer businesses to start up in the area, Molly Nusbaum was learning secrets of how to make an authentic New York style homemade bagel.

“I want to be a pastry chef, so Everything Bagels welcomed me into their lovely, pillowy bagel arms and we are having fun, hands on experience with Pamela and Kristeena and I’ve even learned how to steam a latte. I loved baking since I was 8 and it’s what I want to do but I have a lot to learn about business and today has been really helpful,” said Nusbaum.

“It’s fun to encourage someone to become an entrepreneur, but I’m also learning how to mentor at the same time because we all have to learn from our own mistakes,” commented Pamela Parker, owner of Everything Bagels.

At CPH a couple of the KCHS juniors interested in becoming nurses were being mentored in the nursery.

“Actually this is the first time I’ve ever been to this hospital, it’s really a beautiful place and extremely high tech. Health care has been in my family a long time and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Emma Caughran.

“My sisters are nurses and I’m interested in helping people. It looks like it’s a stressful career but I think it could be very rewarding and today has actually increased my interest,” said shadow Paige Kruse.

“I want the shadows to know that there are so many things you can do with nursing, there’s hospital nursing, public health nursing, teaching and many different avenues you can pursue through nursing which makes it a very appealing field to go into,” explained CPH nurse Sandy McIntyre.

“It’s worth the effort for us here at CPH because we want to expose these young people to the medical field and hopefully become part of our future workforce as doctors, PA’s and nurses,” said Jim Childers CPH volunteer coordinator.

It’s rather unusual for high school juniors to express interest in becoming authors, but this year several juniors Isaac Hudlow, Alexus Coray and Zoe Pascal, an exchange student from France, did and were paired with published author Pegge Erkeneff.

“I want to be writer of graphic novels (comic books) and the main reason is that I really hated the endings of most of the books I have read, they don’t fill the whole story in and I want to,” said Hudlow.

“I like researching characters for my books and learning how they can overcome difficulties to become a strong and willing fighter,” said Alexus Coray.

“There are many opportunities for writers in my country and we also have job shadow opportunities that sometimes last a whole week,” said Zoe Pascal, an exchange student from France.

“This is the first year I’ve had job shadows and it’s really fun. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 13, I was a bookworm and would always check out a stack of books, I wrote and journaled a lot but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I actually began to write and then my first published book happened in my mid-30s. My writing skills have changed over the years having been a ghost writer and published several Chicken Soup books but today there are so many different avenues for authors with social media, blogs and different ways of communicating which is still writing but different,” said Erkeneff.

To become part of next year’s Job Shadow program contact Johna Beech at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.