“Kelsey*, come check this out!” I heard my friend Lindsay* shout from across the room. She was sitting in front of a computerized flight simulator. Learn how to fly here! said the sign next to the table. It was one of several stations at the Ottawa County Career Showcase.
Lindsay and I were freshman at Oak Harbor and, if you’d asked me a few days ago, I would have said it seemed kind of early to start thinking about life after high school. I was only fourteen and graduation seemed so far away.
Until recently, I thought I’d already known what I would be doing after graduation—working with my dad and older brother at the power plant.
“Then, an announcement came…and soon there was a lot of uncertainty around the future operation of the power plant…Suddenly, I had no clue what I would do after high school.”
I had never dreamed I would do anything else. Working at the power plant was basically a family tradition. My dad had worked there since his high school graduation, and my older brother had been there for the past two years. Even my mom had worked there, at least before her accident.
I pretty much assumed that working at the plant would be my path too. Honestly, I hadn’t given much thought to other possibilities.
Before my class arrived at the showcase, I’d been expecting a typical job fair set up—a gymnasium with people from local companies standing behind folding plastic tables, handing out hard candy and brochures that I had absolutely no interest in reading. But, what I walked into was a lot like a literal fair, set up in a big outdoor tent.
Lindsay had quickly found the aviation station, and was practicing her take-off and landing skills on the flight simulator. Flying had always been a dream of hers. Some of my other friends instantly gravitated toward other stations, each with its own activity to help us better understand the profession.
I browsed each career station from a distance, like a window-shopper at the mall. Then, something across the room caught my eye and took my breath away. Memories of one of the most difficult days in my life began to flood my mind…
Toward the end of last summer, Mom was driving me to the lake. We were headed out for a rare trip to the islands. I remember how hot it was, because the air conditioner was broken and we had all the windows down. We were stopped at a red light and when it turned green, my Mom pulled out into the intersection.
I don’t remember the impact. I remember being carried onto the sidewalk by someone. I remember the sound of ringing in my ears and muffled voices, which were quickly replaced by approaching sirens. And then, I remember EMTs putting my mom on a stretcher, performing CPR as they lifted her into the back of an ambulance.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, bringing me back to the career showcase in front of me. “Are you okay?” said a man in a fire department uniform, looking down at me in concern. Without realizing it, as the memory of the accident overwhelmed me, I had walked straight over to the firefighter and paramedic station. The man was demonstrating resuscitation techniques on a practice dummy.
I quickly wiped the tears which started to inch from the corners my eyes and stepped over to the dummy. Looking up at the man I said, “My name is Kelsey, can you show me how to do that?”
Later that day, while waiting for my dad to pick me up after school, my mind was racing with thoughts of my new career. Finally arriving, my dad greeted me with a tired smile.
“How was it?” he asked. “Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?”
I smiled back at him, thinking of my incredible day and also of my mom waiting for me at home. I couldn’t wait to sit by her bedside and tell her all about my new, big dream.
*This blog post is a fictional story based on facts provided around the Ottawa County Career Showcase, a program supported by the Ottawa County Business Advisory Council. Story details have been added in order to provide a clearer picture and understanding of the support that is capable through the program’s impact.