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GISH Freshman Career Conference helps students explore pathways

Freshman at Grand Island Senior High are getting ready to choose their pathway in December. With five upper academies offering a total of 20 career pathways, students have many options. To help students further prepare for the decision, the Academy of Freshman Exploration hosted a Freshman Career Conference on Wednesday afternoon. 

This was the third year of the event. Freshman Seminar teachers Patrick Harder, Montie Fyfe, Micheal Lynn and Chris Ladwig organized the event and hope to make it better each year. 

The Freshman Seminar class helps students learn about the upper academies and the many opportunities available to them.

"One of the main goals of Freshman Seminar is for students to choose their pathway for their sophomore through senior year,” Harder said. “That’s a big deal, so we start with them going through each pathway so they can explore and learn more. As they start to narrow their focus, this conference is the next step where they can ask questions of professionals in the field and students who are currently in the pathways.”

Harder said teachers encourage students to attend a variety of sessions from different academies.

“This really does help students narrow their focus on a pathway, or to rule out a pathway they don’t think is for them.”

This year’s conference featured 24 sessions and about 60 speakers, including current GISH seniors, Grand Island Public Schools staff, GISH alumni, area doctors, business owners and many more.

The Career Conference kicked off with three keynote speakers via Zoom: Anthony Galvan, Sr. Director of Marketing & Brand at Hudl; Jason Hornady, Vice President at Hornady Manufacturing; and Dr. Jana Broadhurst, Director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit Clinical Laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Galvan is a GISH 2003 alum and Hornady is a GISH 1988 alum. All three keynote speakers talked about their career journey and gave some of their best advice to students.

Jason Hornady speaks to students via Zoom.“You can’t talk and listen at the same time,” Hornady said. “And don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and actually talk to people, not just email or text them.”

“This conference is helping students change their thoughts and focus on their future,” Ladwig said. “I think one of the biggest parts of the conference is that the students get to see what professionals are doing in those different career fields.”

Freshman Reid Kelly attended sessions on sports medicine, aviation technology and healthcare (dentistry).

“It’s been really fun today,” Kelly said. “I’ve gotten to see what’s available to me my sophomore through senior year and beyond. It’s engaging to see what you can do and what opportunities there are at GISH.”

Chris Marcello, a school resource officer at GISH with the Grand Island Police Department, presented to students during the Law & Public Safety pathway session. Officer Marcello served in the military for 23 years and has been a police officer for seven years. He shared his story of why he became a police officer and what it’s like in his shoes.

 Officer Marcello speaks to freshman.Officer Marcello shared that as a kid, he experienced some difficult things. “When I was 14 years old, I knew I wanted to be a police officer,” Marcello said. “I knew I was going to help kids get through what I went through. My passion is kids, and justice for kids,” he said.

He encouraged students to start planning for their future now. “Right now, start being the person you want to be in the future,” Marcello said.

Sara Serrano, a senior in the Law & Public Safety pathway also presented to students. She shared what the pathway offers and the experiences she has had, including going on ride-alongs with local police officers and attending a jury trial.

“The opportunities that the Law and Public Safety pathway has shown me more of what life would be like after I graduate from college,” Serrano said. “It gives me motivation to keep my grades up and keep pushing through the school year, because I know this is what I want to do in the future.”

Serrano plans to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney to major in criminal justice and minor in psychology, which is the same path Officer Marcello took.

“I also really want to focus on helping kids, because I know from previous experience that it helps to talk to someone,” Serrano said. “I want to have that knowledge to be able to help them, because I’ve been there.”

Jake Redman, a social studies teacher in the Academy of Education, Law & Public Safety, presented about the education pathway and shared why he enjoys teaching. Redman has been a teacher at GISH for four years.

“Every day has a real purpose behind it,” Redman said about teaching. Redman said he enjoys building relationships with students and making a positive impact. 

Freshman Marixsa Mendoza attended three sessions from the Academy of Medical Sciences: physical therapy, healthcare (dentistry) and emergency services. 

“The medical field is something that’s really interested me since I was younger. None of my friends went to college, but I do have a cousin who does occupational therapy,” Mendoza said. “She inspired me to do something in the medical field and I’ve been interested in it ever since.”

“The conference helped me to narrow down my choices to see which pathways I am more interested in,” Mendoza said.

Ladwig said he felt the conference was  successful. “After the second session, I already had several students come up to me and ask if we could talk about their possible pathway choice,” Ladwig said. “That solidifies the reason why we do this and why we plan for it months in advance.”

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