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Career day lets students explore jobs

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Verndale High School juniors Kylee Wright and Barbora Novotna are pretty sure about the job fields they want to join.

But on Friday, they got their first real feel for the health science field.

The Bridges Career Exploration Day was held at Central Lakes College. It pulled in about 2,100 students from 21 high schools in the Brainerd lakes area. There, the students heard from professionals in about 150 career fields, including agriculture, business, manufacturing and technology, communication, human services and health science.

“It’s cool to see other careers,” Wright said.

Wright came to the event knowing she wanted to be a massage therapist. Now she’s also thinking about physical therapy, too.

Friend Novotna started the day focused on dental surgery. Now she’s also thinking about a career as a dietician or in general surgery.

That’s the magic of the event, said Mary Gottsch, Bridges Workplace Connection director with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. “Some kids walk in knowing what they want to do. Some walk out more confused. But we hope someone discovers something,” she said.

The career exploration day started in 2008 with 57 exhibitors and more than 750 students from six area school districts.

It’s ballooned into 10 times the number of students, each getting hands-on interaction with businesses in their interests or ones they’ve never been exposed to.

The event is put on by the Bridges Career Academies and Workplace Connection, which is supported by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Central Lakes College, in partnership with area school districts.

At Friday’s event, Wright learned the years of education needed for massage therapy, while Novotna made sure to take note on the requirements needed for dental surgery.

“I have to make sure it’s as great as I think,” she said.

Those lessons are critical for students in high school, Gottsch said. Plus, students get a chance to see that the college setting isn’t a scary place.

The success in the event is because of the partnerships, Gottsch said.

“Schools have really bought into the idea of what career exploration is about,” she said. “That’s big for us. They believe in it. The strength is really in the school districts and businesses to make (this event) good.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at