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Kansas City students explore different careers this summer, from Kauffman Stadium to utilities

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Justin Kabongo, a ninth grader at East High School, takes a turn on the excavators as part of Kansas City Public Schools' summer career exploration.

Fifty high school students in Kansas City Public Schools are experiencing a different kind of summer education as they explore different careers in the classroom and beyond.

Some 50 students from Kansas City Public Schools are spending summer school exploring different careers in the classroom and out.

The district is offering a career exploration program as part of its summer academy at the Manual Career and Technical Center. High school students are exploring different career paths at the center, on field trips and by meeting local professionals.

Crystal Everett, the district’s manager of Career and Technical Education, says the program is about exposing students to a variety of jobs.

“Students don't know what they don't know. And it's as important to know what you want to do as what you don't want to do,” Everett said. “And so with this opportunity, we're just giving them simple exposures.”

Each day starts with a “morning mingle” in which people from around the community talk with students about their area of expertise. The rest of students’ time is spent networking, learning about personal finance and going on college and field trips.

They’re also taking a look at some of the programs from the career center’s culinary, health science and auto technician instructors.

To kick off the summer program, students visited Kauffman Stadium to explore “behind-the-scenes” jobs in IT and inside the control room.

This week, they explored a variety of jobs at utility companies. Spire, Evergy and KC Water came on campus to let students try out different equipment used in the field.

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Ninth grader Justin Kabonga and other students learn to set a utility meter from Spire employees.

Anthony Kyle, a sophomore at Success Academy at Anderson, impressed workers from Spire as he tried out using utility meters. Kyle said the utility work was “pretty easy” once he got the hang of it.

“Because I was like this (is) hard. But then when they explained to me how it works and everything, and then once you do it, once you get used to it, you get more comfortable,” Kyle said.

Nicole Fondren, Spire’s manager of talent acquisition and workforce development, said the event aims to make students aware of the utility space and get them interested in going into the field.

“Not everyone is a four-year, collegiate type of person,” Fondren said. “Some people just need to be able to get a position where training is just two years and they're able to make a great living.”

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Sophomore Anthony Kyle learns how to set a utility meter as part of Kansas City Public Schools' career exploration program this summer.

Everett said the program is also an opportunity to get students interested in early college programs, career technical education and even interning for the school district's facilities, school leadership, operations, student support services.

The school district hired more than 50 students this year to intern in peer tutoring, facilities, school leadership, operations and student support services. Because students are employees of the district, they’ll also be paid.

Everett said these programs are all part of KCPS’s mission to get students both college and career ready.

“The gist of it is for us being able to prepare students for post-secondary opportunities that include college, that include going to the workforce or a combination of both,” Everett said.

Students in the summer program will also earn half a credit in personal finance, which is a requirement to graduate.

Kyle said he’s still not sure what career he wants to pursue. But utility work may be an option.

“I was thinking about it. But I also wanted to be an engineer,” Kyle said. “So I've got a lot of options to choose from.”

Corrected: June 28, 2022 at 10:52 AM CDT
An earlier reference to Water One should have said KC Water.
More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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