Cass County sophomores attend Career Awareness Day at SMC

DOWAGIAC — Five hundred Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg and Marcellus sophomores attended Lewis Cass Intermediate School District’s Career Awareness Day at Southwestern Michigan College on Nov. 16. Participants toured the Dowagiac campus and experienced five 30-minute career sessions with SMC faculty

They explored social work, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, education, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), business, information technology, accounting, marketing, nursing, automotive technology, robotics and welding. The students also picked up practical tips for checking oil and tire pressure with Niles’ Kaley Kenyon, one of Kyle Schrock’s four female automotive students. They learned about hammering nails and staying healthy during cold and flu season.

Business instructors Jane Mitchell and Leon Letter expressed accounting, IT, human relations and marketing concepts in chocolate, asking students to redesign the iconic brown-with-silver-letters Hershey wrapper into something appealing to consumers their age.

“The $22.4-billion chocolate industry —$68 per American — affects so many careers,” Letter said.

Three percent of a dollar candy bar goes to cocoa growers, with a nickel allotted for taxes, 12 percent for transportation and logistics, 20 percent for production, 10 percent for marketing and 7 percent for processing, leaving a 43-cent profit margin at the retail level.

“Part of logistics is how you get Hershey bars out of the plant and into stores in the middle of summer,” Letter said.

“India has outdoor markets,” Mitchell said, “so Hershey’s came up with (squeeze tubes) similar to (Yoplait’s) Go Gurt.”

Nursing instructors Jeanie Mitchel and Julie Zabriskie highlighted allied health options such as medical assisting, a one-year certificate; certified nursing assistant, a semester-long program teaching provision of basic patient care; phlebotomy, two classes in drawing blood; electrocardiogram technicians, one class; fire science; emergency medical technician; and a health services associate degree for those interested in dentistry, dental hygienist or radiology.

One of Mitchel’s current students interested in occupational therapy is transferring to Western Michigan University.

“This is a nice way to get started because it doesn’t cost as much,” she said. “Anyone thinking of coming into nursing, I highly advise you to become a CNA first. It gives you a better taste of what you’ll be doing because it’s nothing like ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”

Zabriskie relies on computer savvy to teach Health Information Technology (HIT, or medical records, a two-year program).

“I come from a nursing family — mom, grandma, aunts, son — everybody but me,” he said.

On Jan. 9, there will be a dedication ceremony to celebrate the creation of a $9.6 million building.

The women used black light to demonstrate the effectiveness of old-fashioned hand-washing with soap and water versus hand sanitizers.

“Keep lotion around so your hands don’t chap. Bacteria can get trapped in those cracks,” Mitchel said. “Sneeze into your shoulder because if you don’t cover your mouth it spreads three feet.”

Allyson Starrett teaches welding at the Niles Campus.

“Pipefitters make serious money, at least $40 an hour,” Starrett said. “They’re in desperate need of pipefitters every time I talk to the locals. You could get into shipbuilding, from Escanaba to Alabama, or build pipelines.”

Education Director Heather Zile said careers are not as far away from students as they may seem.

“Many of you in March will be offered dual-enrollment opportunities without cost except to your local school districts,” Zile said. “You don’t have to rack up debt getting college credits. Right now, there’s a teacher shortage, which makes education a good field for employability.”

Social Sciences Chair Christi Young said students had some unique educational opportunities.

“Tenth-grade me didn’t have the opportunities you guys have,” she said. “I have students come in with 24 dual-enrolled credits — that could be a $10,000-$15,000 savings of university tuition.”

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter community college founded in 1964. The college delivers above-average graduation/transfer rates compared to other community colleges nationally and student college-level course success that is consistently in the top 25 percent of two-year colleges nationally. SMC strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services that meet the needs of students and to serve the community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.

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