First high school career conference held in Burlington

Sherie Monk

Recently, Big Horn County School District No. 1 (BHCSD1) partnered with Northwest College and the University of Wyoming to access the High Altitude Pathways to College and Career Readiness Grant. The grant is designed to encourage students from rural areas to embrace a college/career education.
Matt Davidson, superintendent of BHCSD1, while attending a conference was introduced to the administrator of the grant, Colby Gull. Supt. Davidson brought back information and gave it to Sally Bernhisel, District Career Coordinator. She attended a conference in Casper about the grant and away she went, organizing the first career conference for high school students in the Big Horn Basin.
Bernhisel began by asking for workshop presenters.
“Whenever I call local businesses around here, they are so willing to help students. Our communities are just so willing,” she said.
Using Northwest College as a resource, others throughout the state and country were contacted and agreed to come and present or be keynote speakers. This approach allowed students to see and hear what is available locally and beyond.
Students were given a menu of the workshops and asked to choose three. Bernhisel then took all the choices and made personal agendas for each student, which was no small task considering that there were 230 students attending from Ten Sleep, Meeteetse, Burlington and Rocky Mountain in grades 9-12.
March 12 arrived, and the four schools converged on Burlington High School for the conference. They were greeted by Malinda Garcia, formerly of Wind River High School and currently principal of Whiting High School in Laramie. While principal at Wind River, Garcia developed “Voices in the Field,” a program for students to meet with professionals in various fields and learn about their education and skills. At the conclusion of Garcia’s speech, a keynote panel of four students/graduates of Northwest College, Mariah Madder, Alex Perez, Elizabeth Bleicher and Kiarra Jolley, was led by Ron Rix. They answered questions and spoke about their NWC experiences.
Students were then sent on their way to attend the workshops. Each workshop was asked to have an explanation and hands-on component. Teachers from Rocky Mountain and Burlington high schools monitored each workshop and evaluated its effectiveness and gave commendations and recommendations. Each workshop was 35 minutes long with a short passing period between. The Burlington Place hosted a lunch, within one of the workshop slots, at which 80 pizzas were consumed.
The end note speaker for the conference was Jacob Hatch, a graduate of Rocky Mountain High School who currently lives and works in Cody as owner of Diamond Point Construction. His comments were dedicated to helping students realize their potential and dreams when choosing a career.
“Community and schools came together for students to see what’s out there for careers,” Bernhisel said. “We started it this year and want to see it continue. We learned a lot.
Bernhisel issued “a special thanks” to the people and businesses who took the time to support the attending students with a workshop: Kendle Jeffs, Alan Hill and Lucas Shaw, Northwest College; Jess McPherson, US Bank; Ron Rix and Manny Tejeda, CFES Brilliant Pathways; Brandi Dearcorn, Patricia Casey, Colton Hodge and John Bernhisel, Big Horn County School District No. 1; Matty Moody, Kimmy Curtis and Hiedi Christensen, North Big Horn Hospital; Keri Angell and Nate Kreider, Big Horn Co. Sheriff’s Office; Glenn Halsey, WyoTech; Thomas Rullman, GT Aeronautics; Melissa Harrington, The Burlington Place; Steve Miller, Wyoming Workforce Services; Sgt. Michael McKeon, U.S. Marine Corps; and Kim Miller Wilson and Mark Wentz, Mountain Construction.