Freshmen Explore Academy

MINSTER — The 167 freshmen from New Bremen, Minster and New Knoxville schools will have a leg up come high school graduation time.

The students attended the first-ever Exploration Academy, a collaborative program put together by the Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce, the New Bremen, Minster and New Knoxville high schools, and different business professionals from all three villages. The event was held at the YMCA on Ohio 66 between New Bremen and Minster.

“We’re just trying to give these students an idea of what’s available in the area within their interest for a career or something after high school,” Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce Director Scott Frey said. “This gives them an opportunity to look at six different fields of interests or careers. We had asked the kids to tell us their top three interests — they’re freshmen, so they’re still just beginning to process figuring out what they want to do after high school. And we felt like we could facilitate that if we could get them in touch with local professionals and hear a little bit about the career itself; what sort of training and education would be required for that student to enter that career; what type of jobs, what’s the work environment like, what led that person to be in the career.”

The day started with soft skills training, which if mastered, are invaluable in any job. Students practiced how to be memorable, how to present themselves, how to have a good handshake and other vital tools.

New Bremen Economic Development Director Angela Hamberg was also a major impetus in organizing the day’s events.

“Today is not only to help them in the selection process, but also help them even with elimination — because that’s just as important,” Hamberg said. “Now as freshmen, they’re probably not picking a career today. It’s just part of the process, and we’re just trying to give them awareness of how to make those decisions.”

The two sought out professionals to speak to students about their careers.

“At the beginning of the school year we had the guidance counselors do a survey (of) the students to pick three of their top interests, and then we collected all of those and tried to figure out the most common profession,” Hamberg said. “So we had over 50 professions represented today. We gave them exposure to things that maybe they wouldn’t have considered otherwise.”

The freshmen chattered with their friends between speakers, but once the representatives began their presentations, the students gave their full attention.

For Lucas Heitkamp of New Bremen, the day was about elimination.

“I learned some things I wanted to do before, but don’t want to now,” Heitkamp said.

“I thought (agricultural) business was something I wanted to do.”

His interests have shifted toward local law now.

Natasha Schneider, also of New Bremen, became more confident in the career field she had already chosen.

“I liked nursing and always wanted to become a registered nurse,” she said.

“Today made that desire a definite.”

Christie Shell, a career and life coach with Zeal Coaching, ended the day with some food for thought for the freshmen.

“You get to choose your thoughts,” she said.

“You get to choose whether you’re going to live your passion. First, you’ve got to gag that inner critic — that crazy little voice who’s in your head ... and fill in that information with positive thoughts ... But it takes action. You’ve got to show up and try some things.”

The students went home with a flash drive full of college and career information.