By: Ryan Anderson
May 26, 2017
As Wilson Elementary continues to emphasize the fact it’s never too early for children to begin contemplating their employment futures, the school hosted a Workers on Wheels Career Day Thursday for first-graders.
Vehicles of various professions, from police cruisers and a fire engine to construction equipment and an ambulance, were parked in front of Wilson for students to explore, and students even received complimentary ice treats from Kona Ice, another volunteer vehicle.
This is only one of multiple career days for students, as fifth-graders revel in kids-on-campus at the University of Minnesota, while third-graders visit local businesses downtown to hear from those who work at those spots.
This is the third year of Workers on Wheels, said Katie Wanous, Wilson’s school counselor. The career day “gets kids starting to think about what careers are out there and learning about job descriptions,” she said.
“This is cool stuff,” she said. “The kids love to see the vehicles and how they work.”
Paramedics Jeff Howard and Carolyn Whitney were both making their first appearances at the event Thursday. They let students investigate inside their Gold Cross ambulance, and they even put students on a gurney to show off its capabilities.
The job brings a high level of self-satisfaction, said Howard, who has been a paramedic for a handful of years.
“I knew I would do this as a first-grader,” he said.
Whitney has only been on the job for eight months, but this is a much more active beat than her previous stop, Rapid City, South Dakota, she said. In Rapid City, the ambulance received about 300 calls a year, but here 2,000-3,000 calls come in annually.
The toughest part of being a paramedic is maintaining the correct level of emotional involvement, Howard said. A paramedic must be empathetic, but “you can’t take their problems home with you.”
An ambulance is essentially “a hospital on wheels,” he added. It “is nice being an answer to their problems.”
For Whitney, the career is “really rewarding,” she said. “I like getting to meet all the people, and you’re in lots of different environments.”
Part of the Owatonna Fire Department contingent Thursday was Matt Halverson, who has been part of the fire department for 13 years, moving into a full-time position in November. He got into firefighting in his late 20, when friends of his at the fire department recommended it to him.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s a great job.”
Most often, he’s seeing individuals on “their worst day,” but helping people is fulfilling, he said. It’s also a way to give back to the community.
He didn’t realize how many more duties were involved with his full-time role, he said. For example, “there’s lots of public education,” like Thursday’s career day, but “it’s fun.”
Curtis Hortop, who is based in Owatonna, and Natalie Velzke, who works out of the Faribault shop, brought a plow truck for the Minnesota Department of Transportation Thursday. Both Hortop and Velzke have been on the job roughly 18 months, and being able to spend so much time outside — especially on days like Thursday — is one of the highlights of their chosen profession.
“People not paying attention on the road” is often a headache while they’re working, Hortop said. Winter is the busiest time, as “we’re on call 24/7, whatever the weather brings.”
Wilson’s career days for children of varying ages help those students discover “their dream jobs,” Wanous explained earlier this month. Students ask themselves, “How do you get there? What do you need to make it work? Who am I, and what do I want to be?”
Ryan Anderson is a report at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts, entertainment and education beats.