QUINCY -- Unity High School sophomore Colleen Burwinkel has at least part of her career plan all mapped out -- and it just might involve becoming an emergency medical technician or a paramedic.
"I've always wanted to help people," she said. "I want to save people's lives. It's what I always wanted to do."
She got a chance to learn more about her options Friday at the annual West Central Region Sophomore Career Fair, held at John Wood Community College, where the speakers included Eric Nielsen, a paramedic with the Adams County Ambulance Service.
"We're kind of giving them an overview of how our service works and how a student would go about becoming a paramedic or EMT and maybe a better understanding of whether or not this is something they would be interested in pursuing careerwise," Nielsen said.
More than 800 sophomores from schools in Adams, Brown, Hancock and Pike counties turned out for the fair featuring speakers in career clusters ranging from architecture and construction to business and administration, transportation and distribution to law enforcement.
"Some kids have an idea what they want to do, but a lot of kids don't," said Gena Finley, program coordinator with Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center, who organized the fair. "This is an opportunity for them to hear from people in those jobs about what a day might look like, what education they need to do that job, what additional training employers provide and what opportunities there are for advancement."
Julie Sampson, who works at the ADM Research Farm, stressed the skills that companies are looking for in future employees.
"Definitely interpersonal skills, communication, working with a team. Even our guys on the farm who drive a tractor every day have to be computer savvy," she said. "Don't come unprepared, and like what you do."
Each student attended two presentations, and sessions on health care careers were popular with speakers on nursing, respiratory therapy and medical lab technician and scientists.
Mark Lotz, respiratory care program coordinator at Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences, started his presentation with a basic definition of the career. "We help people breathe," he told students.
Quincy Notre Dame sophomore Liz Robertson wanted to hear more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM careers.
"I just want to learn about what all I can do in science world," she said. "Science is my favorite thing ever."
Engineering appealed to Unity students Levi Corrigan and Eli Mittermeyer. Eli, who already has met with several mechanical engineers, said it's especially helpful to hear from people already in the career.
Hearing the career message as a sophomore helps students make plans for the rest of their high school years.
"They can work with their counselors to come up with a plan for their junior and senior years of what classes they can take in high school to get them to the next level, whether college or trade school," Finley said. "We hope they take away a little bit more of an idea what they might like to do."