ELKADER, IOWA - NOVEMBER 30, 2023
High school students across northeast Iowa gained hands-on experience in educational healthcare careers like Occupational and Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Audiology, and Social Work at an event hosted by Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA) and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). Students practiced typing braille, explored apps to help toddlers learn to speak vowel sounds, and learned from AEA Occupational Therapists how to adapt everyday household items so children with physical challenges can learn and play just like their peers.
The “Healthcare in Education Exploratory Career Day” held at Keystone AEA in Elkader on November 28 had attendance from nearly 40 high school students from Howard-Winneshiek, MFL MarMac, New Hampton, Turkey Valley, Postville, South Winneshiek, and Starmont.
Students transitioned through hands-on career stations allowing them to gain experience and ask questions about careers in audiology, early childhood, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, school psychology, school social work, and teaching and supporting mobility for students with visual impairments.
Kelcie Smith, College and Career Coach with NICC, accompanied six Starmont High School students. “Kids don’t always realize how a career can help other people,” Smith said. “Physical or sports education can lead to a career in occupational therapy. Exposing them to these options opens their eyes and they realize there are more options than what they see day-to-day.”
“I found the occupational therapy station the most interesting,” said Jax, a freshman from Starmont. It was cool to see how people can use tools to improve lives and find solutions to help others.”
While some may think of Career Day as a “field trip” that certainly is not the case for these students. All Iowa students in Grades 8-12 grade complete an Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) as part of a roadmap to post-graduation. Through connection to the ICAP students consider the steps needed to achieve their postsecondary goals, whether that is entering the workforce immediately or continuing their education. Healthcare was a commonly identified career path for all of the students attending the event.
Another NICC College and Career Coach, Krista Skaalan, brought six students from South Winneshiek to the event. “A lot of students are interested in the healthcare field and a lot of them are primarily interested in nursing,” said Skaalan. “This helps them understand that there is much more to the healthcare field. There are a ton of people interested in sign language and now they realize they can use that skill in the healthcare field.”
Vincent, a freshman from Starmont, shared why he attended the event, “I want to be a PE teacher when I grow up. I thought maybe this would show me other careers that I might be able to expand into. Physical therapy and speech therapy were the most interesting to me today and I was also surprised to learn there are so many careers in the “Hearing” field.”
A similar event was held in early November at Keystone AEA’s Dubuque location.
Keystone Area Education Agency provides special education services for children ages birth-21, and educational and media services to 21 public school districts and 21 nonpublic schools, covering nearly 5,000-square-miles in these counties: Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek. For more information visit www.keystoneaea.org