By Marie Kaufman, Colorado Educator Voice Fellow
Skyline High School (SHS) in the St. Vrain Valley School District understands that students need exposure to all of the options available to them after graduation. Skyline’s primary goal is to prepare every student for a successful future. That’s why two SHS teachers, Rebekah Cook and myself, are Colorado Educator Voice Fellows, and that’s why our school has launched the Career Talk Brown Bag Lunch series.
Curated by Amanda Giuliani (STEM Coordinator) and me and supported by the District’s Community Strong initiative, a different industry representative visits during lunch every Monday to discuss career pathways and opportunities, essential skills, interview and resume tips, and, most importantly, to share their own stories of success and failures (failures are celebrated at SHS) with students.
Past guests have included a photographer from National Geographic, the manager of manufacturing at BI Incorporated, a customer service rep from OtterBox, and director of innovative programming at St. Vrain’s Innovation Center. Upcoming speakers include the Director of Communications and Marketing for the City of Longmont, Director of Professional Resources at Longmont United Hospital, and a senior executive from Lockheed Martin.
Although the main goal of the series is building career awareness for our students, the format for each Career Talk Brown Bag lunch varies, determined by the speaker and what he or she wants to share with SHS students and faculty. Some give traditional slideshow presentations, walking students through the steps necessary to enter the industry of the speaker. Charles Smith, a former photographer for National Geographic, shared his photographs and discussed where he was when the picture was captured, the challenges and beauty of those locations, and what was frustrating or surprising during the shoots. A few, like Parker Ridgley from Horace Mann, prefer a more intimate discussion. Parker held a roundtable discussion, answering students’ questions as they arose and speaking earnestly about the essential skills every successful person must have and the value of working for one’s self. It’s especially exciting when a Skyline alum speaks. Alexia Hegy, customer service rep at OtterBox and SHS alumna, spoke about the satisfaction of working for a company who shares her values and who gives back to the community.
The Career Talk Brown Bag Lunch series will also host artists, chefs, welders, military service members, auto mechanics, and small business owners this school year. Speakers are parents, family members, community and industry partners, alumni, and engaged citizens, all who believe the phrase “it takes a village” is more than a cliche. They believe it’s a truth.
The work Ms. Cook and I have done with America Achieves afforded the opportunity to meet with and tour the facilities of many industries in Colorado. Witnessing the innovation and impact of industry across Colorado, and, in some cases, seeing the pure joy and satisfaction jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries can bring moved us to share our experiences with other educators and administration at Skyline. We encouraged our colleagues to reflect on what it truly means to be college and career ready.
The Career Talk Brown Bag Lunch series mimics the experiences we have had with America Achieves in that students hear and learn from Colorado industry about the many pathways available to them and what skills, knowledge, and passions will help them achieve their goals. The success of Skyline’s Career Talk series speaks to the importance of partnership between education, industry, and community. Together, we can help to prepare all students and ensure they realize stability, prosperity, and fulfillment in their lives and in the work they do.