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NEW MENTORSHIP PROGRAM IN DL: What do you want to do for a living?

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
NEW MENTORSHIP PROGRAM IN DL: What do you want to do for a living?
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

When the bell rang at the Detroit Lakes High School Monday morning, Karen Odens and Erika Haglund made their way into the classroom like they had done many times before.


They pair weren't high school students though, at least anymore.

"I graduated from here in 1997," Odens said.

"I graduated from here in 2006," stated Haglund.

Odens is now a pharmacist in Park Rapids -- Haglund is her intern in her last year of pharmacy school.

They were part of a new Community Mentorship program in Detroit Lakes, which pairs up area professionals with high school students that might be interested in their careers.

It's part of the Career Academies, which were formed last year according to what interests the students had.

The Community Mentorship program has 32 mentors coming in once a quarter to talk to the students about their job -- what got them interested in it and how they got it.

You can look at a textbook and find out what path you should take and what the colleges recommend," said High School Councilor Sara Pender, "but I think just hearing people's personal stories is nice for kids because they know that sometimes there can be a little jaunt here, and then they went that way ... but they still got to where they were through persistence and hard work, and maybe they did change their minds, but that's OK."

The executive director of the Holmes Theater, Amy Sternes, knows all about changing her mind.

"I've had like five or six careers," she laughed, "but I want these students to know that you have to try things to find who you are what you like. It's so important for people to keep exploring and keep learning."

Independent musician and graphic artist-photographer John Hutchinson is one of those mentors that wants to help the students find their way so that they don't wake up every Monday morning hating work.

"I told them, 'find the place you know is yours. Find a career you enjoy and love because that will make it un-like work. Just keep moving forward and find your way.'"

One of those students trying to find his way is Bernard Brewer, a sophomore who wants to one day become a chef.

Although there were no working chefs for him to be paired up with specifically, he says his business mentor still had some good advice.

"If things get hard, just keep going through it, because there were times when he didn't get paid much and had to do a lot of work, but you just have to push through it."

School councilor Doreen Richter says she hopes the program can give the students some exposure to career fields that might not even be on their radar.

"I've heard from past grads who ended up going into business even though they never took a business class here in high school," said Richter, "and I think it would have been nice for them to have had something like this because then maybe they would have realized they were interested in it earlier and gotten some classes out of the way -- because we do have so many opportunities for students to earn college credits while they are here."

Senior Madeleine Taylor says she has a lot of friends who are nervous about going to college because they don't know what they want to do, but don't want to waste money.

And although she has her mind pretty firmly set on special education, her mentor still enlightened her on her future career.

"I learned that teaching doesn't just start at 8 (a.m.) and end at 3 (p.m.)," said Taylor, "You're always working at something like prepping or grading papers on your off time, and I didn't realize they did things during the summer for teaching, too."

Taylor says this new information didn't deter her, but rather made her feel more comfortable about going into something she knows more about -- the good and the bad.

"It's tough for students these age to make a decision on what they want to do when they're still busy also wondering whether they are going to get to go out on a date Friday night or not," said mentor Ed Welke, a water analyst and former high school chemistry teacher in Detroit Lakes. "But I think if they can determine 'Do I like to work with people or do I like to work with things?' it will help them a lot."

What also helps them a lot, according to Richter, is the community connections the students are able to make.

"They're able to meet people who might be able to give them internships or summer employment, so it can really get the ball rolling in the right direction for them."