Creekside kids get schooled in career-path planning

April 12, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Young children may rarely think about the work they’ll be doing after finishing school, but Creekside Elementary School is trying to open their eyes to the possibilities.

The plateau school held its first career day April 1, bringing more than 40 parents and community members from a wide variety of fields into classrooms. Counselor April Stevens was the brain trust behind the event.

Second-grade students at Creekside Elementary School excitedly interact with builder Dave Ritter as he shows them blueprints during an April 1 career day event.  Photo by Neil Pierson

Second-grade students at Creekside Elementary School excitedly interact with builder Dave Ritter as he shows them blueprints during an April 1 career day event. Photo by Neil Pierson

“I’ve always been interested in bringing career development, career awareness, to our students,” Stevens said. “I think it’s really important, and this was just a great opportunity to sort of bring the awareness school-wide, and hopefully, also in the home.”

The day started with a visit from keynote speaker Dan Morgan, a former professional football player who now works as a scout for the Seattle Seahawks.

Morgan has three children who attend Creekside, and he spoke to the students about following their dreams, just as he did to achieve his goals in sports.

Growing up outside Philadelphia, Morgan fell in love with the Miami Hurricanes football program. He earned a scholarship to play for Miami, where he became an All-American linebacker and a first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers.

He ended up playing seven seasons for Carolina and made 18 tackles in their 2003 Super Bowl loss to New England. Injuries forced him to retire after spending the 2008 season with the New Orleans Saints.

Morgan encouraged his young audience to find something they love.

“People who are excellent at their job are passionate,” he said. “When you’re picking a career … it’s impossible to be remarkable at your job if you’re not passionate.”

Derek Decater, a personal trainer who owns a gym in Preston, and yoga instructor Robin Rothenberg spent time in physical education classes talking about their jobs and offering tips.

In music classes, students were treated to visits from Steve Flynn, a composer and pianist with eclectic tastes; and Danielle McCutcheon, a violinist with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra.

Three members of Eastside Fire & Rescue’s Station 81 in Sammamish went to classrooms and spoke about the exhaustive training required to do their jobs.

Firefighters and emergency medical technicians have to study thick books on how to use ladders, air packs and other safety devices, said Lt. Dan DeGidio. They also perfect practical skills on each other, including putting bandages and splints on wounds, and using needles for allergic reactions.

“We see people at the worst part of their day … and that takes a lot of skill,” DeGidio told students.

In Megan Graff’s second-grade classroom, students hovered around Dave Ritter as he spread blueprints on the floor. A former architect, Ritter now works with Sellen Construction, and he’s helping to build three skyscrapers in downtown Seattle for an campus.

“I have to imagine what the buildings are going to look like at the very end and then work backward,” Ritter told the students.

Dr. Alex Porter, a general surgeon, told another classroom that math and science are key components to his job, but teamwork and cooperation are also crucial.

“I could not operate in the operating room without a complete team around me,” Porter said. “You’re going to find this is pretty true about life in general. There aren’t too many things that are individual.”

Creekside students are borrowing ideas from a popular self-help book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” to develop their career skills. In their case, Stevens said, they’re known as the Seven Habits of Happy Kids.

The habits include being proactive and taking charge of yourself, having an end goal in mind, and problem-solving with friends.

“It’s all about goal-setting and having dreams,” Stevens said of the career day. “It’s giving purpose, too, to why we’re in school from kindergarten on up.

“In that younger age bracket, it’s about self-awareness, knowing what I’m good at, what I’m interested in, things that I would want to develop, and then just awareness of what’s out there, which is certainly changing from one generation to the next.”

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