As she weaved her way through the hundreds of booths at this year’s MiCareerQuest, Kenowa Hills High School sophomore Ava Deschaine said she had a very different picture in her head when she first heard about the event.
“When they told us about this, I thought it was going to be all factory jobs and when I think of factory jobs, I think of dark, dirty environments, not these upbeat, high-energy companies that are here today,” she said. “It really changed my mind as to what’s out there, career-wise.”
From slinky-making machines and computer hacking activities to X-rays and lasers, this year’s MiCareerQuest event featured 116 employers showcasing more than 150 careers. Among the more than 10,000 students at DeVos Center, 300 were from the Kenowa Hills district, the most of any district in Kent County.
Ava, who wants to go into the medical field, got a chance to look into her future career options, some of which she hadn’t considered before. Using the allotted 25 minutes in each section wisely, she looked for booths that related to her interests, and ones that she thought looked exciting.
“There was a booth where they were showing you how to make pills, and you actually got to practice with that a little,” Ava said. “I haven’t ever considered the pharmaceutical side of things, but this has got me interested now.”
At one booth, she found herself learning how metal flowers are made and during another, she saw how to take apart and put back together a computer.
“You never really knew what was coming around the corner; it really was quite exciting,” she said. “I did a lot of things I don’t think I ever would have done or tried otherwise.”
So Many Booths, So Little Time
Kenowa sophomore Jeremy Herzog, who said he wants to go into electrical engineering like his father, had trouble choosing which booths to visit.
“There’s only so much time and there’s so much to see and so many people to talk to, especially with my interests,” he said. “I’m basically just looking for booths that really draw me in, and then I’m talking with employees to see if it’s something I would like to do.”
One of his favorite parts about talking with people in the engineering field was meeting those with shared interests.
“I was talking to a couple people and telling them about how I like math and how it’s my best subject and it turns out they were in the same place as me when they were in my shoes,” he said. “It’s always good to talk with like-minded people.”
Jeremy will attend Kent Career Tech Center next year, and said that MiCareerQuest has him more excited about that.
“The event shows that these careers that maybe you see on TV or in movies are actual careers that people have, even in Grand Rapids,” he said. “It has really given me a lot to think about.”
It’s About Who You Know
Kenowa sophomore Ben Hutson said he used the event as a networking opportunity.
“We have had small job fairs like this at school, but I’ve never been to anything this big,” he said. “It’s cool to get to meet and talk to so many people, people who do so many different things.”
Kenowa counselor Dean Lazowski said the emphasis on career readiness is why the school sends so many students to the event.
“This is a great opportunity for all students, not only at Kenowa Hills, but in the state,” Lazowski said. “It’s a real hands-on experience where students get to actually try things out and talk to real professionals rather than just picking a career without knowing.”
Ava said she hopes to attend more events like CareerQuest.
“The way they went about this should be used at every program like it,” she said. “… I mean, we were allowed to touch and use X-rays and point laser guns. What else could you ask for?”