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Life after high school

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(BCR photo/Barb Kromphardt)
Forensic scientist Nicole Fundell drew big crowds to her two presentations on her work as a firearms specialist at the Joliet Forensics Science Laboratory at DePue High School Friday. Students were given the opportuntiy to learn about a variety of jobs during the school's first Career Day.

DEPUE — DePue students had the opportunity Friday to look ahead to their futures.

DePue’s first Career Day was held Friday afternoon, and students had the opportunity to hear from a variety of professionals ranging from forensic scientists to automotive repair teachers.

The professionals shared the details of their work lives, ranging from what drew them to their profession and why they like it, to details such as benefits, salaries and vacation time.

All of the high school students attended their choice of two of the presentations.

One of the more popular presentations came from Nicole Fundell, who works at the Joliet Forensics Science Laboratory.

Fundell gave the students a general overview of what different disciplines are available in the state police crime lab and how she got involved in forensics. Fundell is a firearms examiner, and she told the students about some of her cases, as well as telling them how they could apply to be forensic scientists with the state.

Presenter Ron Bluemer shared his experiences as both a history teacher — both at Putnam County High School and at Illinois Valley Community College — and as the author of 12 local history books.

Bluemer talked about the course work teachers take, and the costs and licensing requirements. He also talked about opportunities for students, as well as the value of writing and communication skills.

Also speaking was Dave McClure, director of Youth Service Bureau. McClure talked about what it would take to work for his agency, and programs where they are hiring students from and how to get a better-paying job.

McClure talked about what a licensed clinical social worker does, both in his organization as well as in other settings, such as hospitals and schools.

McClure also drew on his own experiences, starting as an English teacher before changing careers.

“They don’t have to feel they’re locked in once they start some course of study in school,” he said.

In August 2010, the DePue School District was awarded a three-year, $4.7 million federal Title I School Improvement Grant. The grant was designed to provide better support for struggling schools with its investment in teacher training, professional development and technology.

On Friday, Superintendent Randall Otto said the school is in the third year of the grant.

“We really are stressing in the last year of the grant ... getting the kids more engaged into occupations and looking at life after high school,” Otto said.

In addition to the career day, the school is also working on a certificate of employment program.

“The kids are given certain criteria, and if they meet those criteria, what we’ve done is gone out and talked to local businesses to maybe give them a leg up on finding jobs,” Otto said.

Otto said he is pleased with the progress.

“We are really excited about the things that are going on around here,” he said.

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