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Lakeville South seniors organize first-ever Career Exposure event

May 24, 2023

LSHS Seniors Ellie Taxdahl and Brandon Witter, and Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl at Career Exposure EventOn Wednesday, May 17, approximately 300 Kenwood Trail Middle School 8th grade students had the opportunity to learn about in-demand careers from local organizations at the first-ever Career Exposure event. Lakeville South High School seniors Ellie Taxdahl and Brandon Witter planned and organized the event for their capstone project, with support from Lakeville Area Schools staff and the Lakeville Chamber of Commerce.

Taxdahl and Witter designed the event to expose 8th graders to in-demand careers in the Lakeville area and help them gauge their career interests. “I am interested in pursuing a degree in business, so coordinating this event was right up my alley,” said Taxdahl.

Taxdahl and Witter began planning this event in March 2023, which involved emailing businesses, researching activities, organizing volunteers, and mapping out the Kenwood Trail media center. Throughout the planning process, they met weekly with Lakeville Chamber of Commerce President Krista Jech and Lakeville Area Schools Career Pathways Coordinator Cindy Nolan for guidance. They received additional support from LSHS STEM capstone teacher Jackie Fleischhacker and KTMS 8th grade science teachers Alesia Arlandson and Scott Halupczok

The two capstone students noted that the greatest challenges they overcame while planning this event were learning how to effectively communicate with businesses and working on a tight timeline. 

“We learned all the planning it takes to organize such a complex event–it was like putting together a puzzle,” said Taxdahl. “We learned how to communicate with businesses, send proper emails, use spreadsheets, and work with adults to make this a success.” 

Collage of KTMS 8th grade students participating in stations at Career Exposure eventOn the day of the event 8th grade students chose three of 14 stations to visit, learning about a different industry and participating in a career-specific activity at each station. Industry-related activities included: constructing structures out of marshmallows and toothpicks; creating a monthly budget; building and testing cardboard airplanes; fingerprinting; coding; and more. Prior to the event, Taxdahl and Witter collaborated with the local businesses to prepare these activities. 

After completing an MCIS career assessment, 8th grade students had a better idea of which sessions they should attend and which classes to take in high school that connect to their career interests. 

“As I talked with the middle school students that came to my station, they seemed to really enjoy all the activities that the companies had organized and now have a better idea of what classes they might be interested in taking at the high school level,” said Fleischhacker. 

At the conclusion of the event, Taxdahl and Witter noted how rewarding it was to see the event come together and watch the students interact with the businesses. 

“Easily the most rewarding part of the project was at Kenwood when I saw everything come together," said Witter. "I thought, ‘wow, we really did this.' It was amazing to look around and see all the students engaged with the local businesses and see how much fun they were having.” 

“As their STEM capstone teacher, it was awesome to see them in a leadership role. They really took charge of organizing and facilitating the event for the businesses and teachers participating,” said Fleischhacker. 

Moving forward, the planning team is brainstorming ways to expand the event to all three middle schools. They believe it is vital for students to understand that what they are learning today and in high school will translate into their future careers and successes. 

“As we told Ellie and Brandon, we believe they are a part of a team that pioneered an event that will continue to grow and live on for what we hope to be many years to come,” said Jech. 

Finally, the event planning team wants to give a special thanks to the business partners and volunteers who gave their time and talent to spend an entire school day with KTMS students. Thank you to the following participating organizations: 

  • CliftonLarsonAllen
  • QA1 Precision Products
  • The City of Lakeville
  • Post Consumer Brands
  • The Lakeville Police Department
  • Dakota County Technical College
  • Northfield Hospitals + Clinics
  • Lakeville Works
  • Hearth & Home Technologies
  • Schmitty & Sons Bus Company
  • Loeffler Construction & Consulting
  • Advanced Wireless Communications
  • The Lakeville Chamber of Commerce