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Career Awareness Events at Mineral Area College

Mineral Area College recently hosted two careers-related events to acquaint area middle- and high school students with future work options, and were organized by MCCE Coordinator Tanya DeGonia, left. Careers in the science, technology, engineering and math areas were particularly highlighted, helped by Ryan Clegg, right, who spoke to female students about her pursuit of a doctorate in physics, as well as her experiences working for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center
This spring, Mineral Area College hosted two events, the “Celebrate You, High Tech Careers for Women” workshop and a career fair, to help middle- and high school students become familiar with a variety of careers.

The high-tech careers workshop for women brought 140 students, most of them sophomores, from seven local high schools, and showcased several occupational programs. Hosted by the Mineral Area College Career and Technical Education Division’s Tanya DeGonia, a career education coordinator, said the workshop gave each participant an opportunity to “try on” programs and realize their own potential for entering into non-traditional and STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) careers.

“The opportunities in STEM careers seem endless right now,” DeGonia said. “It’s so important to empower students, to narrow down their choice of career before they graduate from high school. Any advantage we can give them now, will pay dividends in the future.”

DeGonia said many STEM careers qualify as “non-traditional” for women, meaning that the U.S. Dept. of Labor has classified STEM careers as containing a workforce of 25 percent or fewer females.

“These are good-paying, non-traditional careers,” she said. “Studies have shown that women think differently than men, so both genders are needed in these STEM careers, to find solutions and to create innovations.

A guest speaker, Ryan Clegg, also encouraged the women to research STEM and nontraditional careers, and spoke about her and her friends’ journeys in the world of high tech/STEM. Clegg is working on her doctorate in physics at Washington University and has completed three internships at NASA, two at Kennedy Space Center as an undergrad and one at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Her research at Kennedy focused on lunar soil erosion physics for landing rockets on the moon and on the physical and mechanical properties of lunar soil. She has presented at several conferences, is currently working on four scientific publications and dreams of being the first woman on the moon.

Each student participated in hands-on demonstrations from six of MAC’s Career and Technical Education offerings including Engineering Technology, Electronics, Industrial Technology, Computer Networking, Agriculture/Horticulture and Health Career Offerings. 

MAC’s new pre-engineering program, explained by Instructor Paul Fritch, and the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program, taught by Eric Shelton at Farmington High School, were emphasized.

“The plan is for students to earn MAC credits as high school students, and get a head start on their engineering career,” DeGonia said. “The Farmington PLTW program is not limited to FHS students, it’s offered to high school students throughout St. Francois County, which is very exciting.”

The High Tech Careers for Women event was made possible by the Career and Technical Division and in part by funding from the Foundation for Missouri Women.  The foundation funds programs and projects that create opportunities for women and girls in rural and urban communities throughout all regions of the state to be economically self-sufficient in adulthood.

The second careers event held this spring was the career fair, which saw more than 11,300 middle school students Farmington, Potosi, Fredericktown, West St. Francois County, Central, Iron County C-4 and Arcadia Valley, conferring with more than 30 supportive employers about their future career possibilities.

DeGonia said students were encouraged to visit with three employers who were noted in the career cluster of their choice, represented by: John Rupp, Commissions/Judge for Drug Court; Dr. James Weber, Physician; Christy Weber, Registered Nurse; Kim Combs, Family Nurse Practitioner; Tony Caputa, Carpenter’s Union; Anthony Miano, Architect; Ross Gordon, Owner of Benee’s Toys; Shawn Slinkard, Automobiile Engineer; Pamela Williams, County Collector; Kristi Gray, Licensed Practicing Counselor; Aaron Murray, Black Knight TV and numerous others.

Students then congregated in the Fine Arts Theatre to hear DeGonia and MAC Dual Credit Coordinator Julie Downs discuss the importance of putting together a personal plan of study. Also touched on were nontraditional careers and admission into colleges, the career center option and military. 

“I can’t stress enough how important it is for students to research careers and find out what career they want to pursue, before graduating high school,” DeGonia said. “Students aren’t locked into a career choice while attending high school and they’re definitely allowed to change their minds, but they reap many benefits by narrowing their choices down and having a focus.”

DeGonia said studies have shown that fewer students drop out of college and are better prepared if they have an idea of their career goal while in high school, and avoid spending time and money by changing majors while attending college.

DeGonia said she, Dual Credit Coordinator Julie Downs, Admissions Director Julie Sheets and Farmington Middle School Counselor Teresa Moore collaborated on the career fair.

For more information about nontraditional careers and dual credit options, anyone can contact Mineral Area College at (573) 431-4593.

Mineral Area College • 5270 Flat River Road • P.O. Box 1000 • Park Hills, MO 63601 • (573)431-4593