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Midvale Journal

Opportunities, advice come to Huskies from career day, job fair

Jun 21, 2021 02:42PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High students livestreamed the career day to classmates throughout the school to share words from alumni (Brian Duncan ’86 seen at the podium) while ensuring social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High students may have an edge up on their peers this summer, thanks to the school hosting both a job fair and a career day.

“There is a shortage of workers for the available jobs out there,” said Cher Burbank, Hillcrest work-based learning facilitator and careers club adviser. “Schools have been putting out job fliers on job boards all this year. We are trying to help the community in this dilemma while helping our students.”

The job fair was held in-person the week before school was out while the career day hosted alumni who spoke to a small audience in the auditorium as well as livestreamed to students throughout the building, keeping in accordance to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

While the job fair may help with summer positions or even an after-school job, the career day was aimed for a long-term career path, Burbank said.

The four speakers—Pilar Shortsleeve ’74, Brian Duncan ’86, Mitch Price ’11 and Helen Schroeder ’16—each shared highlights of their careers as well as what they did in high school.

“We hoped our alumni career speakers would be able to relate to our current students at Hillcrest,” Burbank said, adding that it was made fun by having a masked alumnus, Hillcrest counselor Kim Rueckert Walters, share stories about her days at the school before graduating in 1993, and how she changed her major four times before she found her career.

Shortsleeve, who recalled saying three lines in the school play, “Matchmaker,” on the stage where she spoke to students, said that she had planned to be a clinical lab scientist when an opportunity came up to enter forensics.  

She said she first discovered her love of biology while at Hillcrest, when she wasn’t on the volleyball court with her teammates, who won the first girls state title in Utah.

“It was a career I hadn’t thought of and didn’t know much about, but I wasn’t afraid to take a chance,” she said. “That’s the advice I have to share with you. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, to take a chance. It may lead you to somewhere you may not even know you want to go.”

Shortsleeve, who has worked 30 years for the state, now is the chief forensic scientist and deputy director of the state crime lab, having first set up the state’s DNA crime lab.

Brian Duncan, whose fond memory of Hillcrest was being thrown in a garbage can when he was “a short nerd in ninth grade,” advised students to “take joy in the journey you’re on. Count your blessings every day for every little bump in the road and don’t be afraid or worried if you don’t have it all put together. Don’t do it alone; ask for help; and ride the highs and lows of the rollercoaster of the unknown.”

While he thought he might want to pursue a career in journalism after being editor of the school creative writing magazine, he took a science class his sister recommended and instead found a new love. He became a dentist and joked he got his revenge when the former student who put him in a trash can sat in his dentist’s chair.

Price, who ran track and cross country and played in several school music groups as well as his band outside of school, said as a student, “I had no idea where I was going. I was not a good student, I just got by.”

He soon learned “getting by” wasn’t enough and dropped out of BYU. He got another chance at the U, but again, it wasn’t a good fit. A third time studying computer science at Utah Valley was his answer.

“I learned from my mistakes,” he said, adding that when he wasn’t offered a job initially, “I learned to be persistent and because of that, I was hired. I also learned to lean on those around me and to learn from them.”

That included his high school composition teacher who caught him cheating in class.

“‘One mistake doesn’t define you,’ he told me. I ran into him a year ago and he said, ‘you made it’ saying he always knew I would when I didn’t,” Price said.

The final speaker was Schroeder, who had participated in Science Olympiad as a Husky and took EMT classes at CTEC. She also was an English Sterling Scholar who took international baccalaureate and advanced placement classes.

“There was a lot of pressure to do IB and AP, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it,” she advised. “If you have book smarts and good common sense, that will get you far.”

She said her strong writing skills helped her graduate from West Point last May and will help in law school she plans to attend. She said part of her success was to go outside of Utah.

“Don’t hold yourself back from succeeding; reinvent yourself and start fresh,” she said. 

Ninth-graders Ana Salinas and Emma Montiel were part of the career day live audience.

“It was fun to hear about their experiences,” Ana said.

Emma, who hasn’t decided what career she’d like to pursue, could appreciated learning from the speakers who said they changed their careers multiple times.

“I like hearing the stories of how they got to where they are now,” she said.

Emma was one of four student ambassadors who greeted and welcomed the alumni back. She was joined by senior Beth Pace and sophomores Sam Fisher and Aiden Reid.