On a typical day, Jemtegaard Middle School attendance Amy Lyall records about 100 student absences. On Wednesday, April 19, she recorded 32.
If you ask Hillary Chapman about the reason for the drastic decrease, she’ll say that the school’s annual Career Day event probably had a lot to do with it.
“That was the (best) attendance we’ve had in three years,” said Chapman, a principal intern at Jemtegaard. “Amy would say that a good day is if she has less than 100 students absent, and a miracle day is less than 60 absent. We had only 32 (on Career Day), and I’m really proud of that. And we only had eight students in the office that day for behavioral issues. After spring break, getting close to the end (of the school year), behavior (specialists) are usually busy.”
The event, which introduced more than 500 Washougal middle-school students to high-school readiness, career discovery and future planning, was “incredibly successful,” according to Chapman, who also serves as a library media specialist at Gause and Hathaway elementary schools.
“(I hoped that they learned that) there are so many pathways,” said Chapman, who organized the event. “If they have a talent or skill, there are different ways that they can pursue that talent or skill and find out what careers are within that. And (I hope they learned) that they don’t have to have just one career their whole life — they can kind of morph as their interests and talents develop as an adult.”
Students began the day by participating in a series of “career sessions,” featuring 20 professionals from a variety of occupations.
Participating community members included David Miller (United States Air Force member and airline pilot), Eric Brunstetter (airline pilot), Michael Martin-Tellis (assistant vice president of finance for Schnitzer Properties and professional cheerleader), Eli Warner (barber), Nate Darling (builder, Indy Construction), Liliya Zhukova (business owner/entrepreneur), Collin Foster (computer-aided designer), Johnattan Curiel (Washougal School District chef), Angelique Haacker Stoltz (Department of Children, Youth and Families-ChildProtective Services), Paul Kulawiak (professional sports car mechanic), James Whitmore (heavy tow truck driver), Patrick Chapman (naturopathic physician), Scott Boothby (Olympic athlete, educator), Tom Stinchfield (dentist), Sugey Lopez (police officer), Charlie Moore (technology patent lawyer) and John Furniss (artist).
“Students met various local career specialists during the event, which helped them understand people’s paths to success in their careers,” said Jemtegaard principal David Cooke. “We also aim for students to learn the importance of finding a job that they enjoy doing. … In my many observations, I see students provided with real-world applications to solving problems. By preparing students for the work world today, we’re shaping the productive and successful Washougal community of tomorrow.”
Furniss told students that he was “very honored” to speak at the event.
“I encourage (you) to take everything in and consider everything,” he told them. “There’s so much at your fingertips.”
In the afternoon, Washougal High School staff members and leadership students led an “Academic Welcome” assembly in the Jemtegaard gymnasium, where eighth-grade students learned about opportunities and electives that they can pursue in high school.
“The feedback that I’m getting back from the eighth-graders is that they feel prepared for high school because they have done all their classes, started their ‘high school and beyond’ plan, and had direct experience with some of their career ideas,” Chapman said. “Although they’re still a little bit nervous, they understand what is expected of them at high school, and that kind of deflates the nerves a little bit. I’m most proud of that.”
Meanwhile, sixth- and seventh-grade students participated in hands-on science activities presented by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
“OMSI had 14 to 15 different stations,” Chapman said. “The sixth-graders rotated through the different sessions, then they came back and talked as a group about what they learned. They were very engaged with that. And the seventh-graders (started) their ‘high school and beyond’ plan (by) enrolling in the YouScience program and starting the ‘brain games’ that help them analyze their skills and talents to help in forecasting for their classes and starting their career pathway journey.”
Chapman organized the event as part of her principal internship studies.
“The practice that I am studying and trying to improve is the really difficult transition from eighth grade into ninth grade,” she said. “At the very beginning of the year, at one of my first administrative leadership meetings, (Washougal School District Superintendent) Mary Templeton brought out the district’s strategic plan, and it (contained) some pretty sobering data statistics from 2020 to 2021 about how ready our students are to enter the ninth grade. We were lower than the state averages.
“That was like an ‘aha’ (moment). I was like, ‘Wow. I could help or create a system or solution or opportunity to tackle that (issue)’ because I had so much experience the past nine years at the high school. I thought, ‘I want to look at that transition’ (during my) internship. And so that is where that idea started to ruminate.”