High School can be a scary time in one’s life.  It is the final stage prior to adulthood. Students are constantly being asked the following question: “What are your plans after High School?” Although this is seen as a burden to most High School Students, it is very important.


Students of Prairie High School are incredibly lucky because there are so many people within our school invested in making sure that all students are ready for life after graduation.  Whether this is for a four-year University, two-year Community College, or heading straight into the World of Work—the student service team at PHS will make sure that each student is prepared.  This great team consists of many individuals and they all play a huge part in making everything run smoothly.


One specific opportunity that all students can participate in is the many career fairs held at school.  In previous years, the only way to participate in career fairs was by transporting a lot of students to one big event. This cost the district a lot of money in transportation fees, so the student service team decided to adjust. “So I said, ‘let’s bring the businesses here, let’s have them focus on a pathway.  Smaller but more refined each month.  And they have to be interactive.  We will not let businesses come in and just stand and hand out brochures.’”  says Mary McWilliams, the transitions coordinator for the College Community School District.


Students are asked to complete a quick survey after each career fair. According to the data taken after the medical career fair held on March 1st, 95.5% of students agreed that they learned something about either a college or career opportunity from the career fair.


As a result of participating in these career fairs, many students long for more information on a certain occupation. This is where job shadows come in to play. According to Mary Gudenkauf, the career development specialist of College Community, “Job shadows are the perfect way to get a glimpse of what a given career is all about. Each student who applies for a shadow is placed in an area of their choice, with a community professional.”  


This experience allows students career spectrum to broaden.  Students are allowed to participate in one job shadow each year. This is because of the low time commitment—it is usually a few hours, a morning, or an afternoon.  Students can truly find out if they could see themselves pursuing this job in the future, or if they can’t stand it.  Either way, they gain a lot of knowledge through a great experience.


Internships are when a student is “working” for a certain company or organization. Internships should be more focused on a career that a student is seriously considering. This is because there is a much higher time commitment than a job shadow. Most internships are between the time span of 45 and 90 hours.  


Internships allow minors to know what it would be like to go to that specific place to work every day.  Lora Danker, the secondary Gifted and Talented Differentiation Specialist within College Community School District said the following about internships: “There is a direct relationship between career fairs and internships. All students are invited to apply for internships, but not all will get one. The process is very competitive. It is a game changer when you have an internship on your resume. When you get into the competitive environment of career, you need something to set yourself apart. We can’t emphasize enough how important internships are.”


A survey was recently sent out to the students of Prairie High School asking some questions on the importance of career exposure within high school. When asked if they agree that experiences such as career fairs, job shadows, and internships are helping them prepare for their lives outside of the walls of high school, 80.2% said yes. That is a very promising number.


According to Grace Estenson, a sophomore at Prairie High School, “These experiences helped me narrow down my options for potential career fields and helped me find something that I actually enjoyed doing.”


Clearly, Prairie High School offers a plethora of options to help each and every student gain a deeper understanding of specific careers that they show interest in. It is apparent that Prairie High School cares deeply about their students’ futures—the student service team is doing everything in their means to ensure that their students will have a successful future beyond high school.


The upcoming career fairs are as the following:

April 18th

Explore careers in architecture, construction, and engineering through the apprenticeship programs.  

May 3

Explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with the Iowa National Guard.

If you are interested in attending, sign up in the guidance office now located in the library.  Also,  check out the student announcements for more information on career opportunities.

For additional information on potential job shadows and internships: http://www.kirkwood.edu/wplc   


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