New career coordinator position gives students guidance and opportunities

Ryan Fitzmaurice

Sally Bernhisel, formally the at-risk coordinator for Rocky Mountain High School, is wearing a new hat these days. This year she has been hired as the career coordinator for the district.

The position is funded by a state grant, which ensures the position is in place for the school district until December 2024. The position is focused on giving students the experience and knowledge they need to successfully transition out of high school into a career path.

Bernhisel has wasted no time hitting the ground running.

“It’s always exciting working with our future generation,” Bernhisel said. “ It’s always fun to see kids light up and see their future.”

Bernhisel works throughout the district, in both Rocky Mountain and Burlington schools. The primary change that parents will notice in both areas is a new senior studies class, which is an entire course predicated on teaching seniors important career skills, such as how to conduct oneself in job interviews and how to build a resume, but also provides information on self-care and how to seek resources for mental health. 

But, that’s just the beginning of Bernhisel’s work in the position.

Bernhisel has met with students throughout the district to discuss future career options, conducting an aptitude test on students to see where their interests lie. Many students have a clear idea of where they are headed. Many others, Bernhisel said, greet the question with a blank stare.

“That’s when we look at career clusters and potential jobs and try to delve into their likes and dislikes more,” Bernhisel said. “It’s important that we are working with careers that aren’t necessarily four-year college degrees. Welders and plumbers, they need some education, they need a certification, they need apprenticeship. It’s important that we find where everyone is going to be most happy.”

From that process, Bernhisel has been able to ensure multiple job shadowing opportunities for students. She recently had a student shadow a diesel mechanic at GK Construction. Another job shadowed at a hospital’s prenatal unit, where the student was able to witness a live birth.

“I also have students come back and say I’ll never do that job,” Berhnisel said. “I had a student interested in architecture come back certain that it wasn’t for her. That’s just as important.”

But sometimes connecting students to local businesses has had incredibly positive results. She’s seen multiple students offered internships and even jobs after graduation.

“These students are adults, and we get to talk to them like adults,” Bernhisel said. “It’s exciting to help them see their futures, to help them see where they are headed. Their future is their own.”

She said she also works to help students have an open mind about their future and develop the skills they need to be flexible.

“I tell students constantly that people change. Most people don’t stay in the same career their whole lives. That’s a great thing,” Bernhisel said. “I certainly don’t want students to feel like they’re going to be stuck doing the same thing for their entire life.”

Bernhisel said in the future she hopes to use her position to expand the presence of career fairs in the district, even looking at establishing a career fair at the elementary level. She said she wants to put in work to pursue more scholarship opportunities for students. She even wants to expand career and technical education opportunities for students, increasing opportunities for students to learn skills like coding and programing and other necessary skills to participate in new industries.

Bernhisel said she’s not doing the work alone. What she does wouldn’t be successful or possible without the support of local businesses.

“It’s hard in some degrees. We rely on the community and we don’t have 10,000 people in our community,” Bernhisel said. “But the people we do have here have really stepped up and have been incredibly open to working with our students. We’ve received real community support.”