September 2022 Newsletter

September 2022 Newsletter

Don't Forget!

The fall 2022 job shadow portal closes Sept. 23 at 3 p.m. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors have the opportunity to explore a career field of interest in a short two- to four-hour exploration experience. So many opportunities to choose from! Both in-person and virtual options are available.


Introducing Two New Workplace Learning Connection Team Members!

Amanda Schwarting – Business liaison for Johnson County will be working out of the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa. Amanda will maintain and develop relationships with Johnson County businesses.Head Shots of Amanda Schwarting and Tonya Caron

Where did you work prior to WLC? 

I was previously an inpatient pharmacy tech at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for eight years. I did everything from compounding IV and chemo medications, to delivery of medications to inpatient units and clinics, to narcotic inventory and distribution for the entire hospital. After that I was a bakery assistant at Wilson’s Apple Orchard for four apple seasons.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy baking, walking/hiking, camping, vacations to the mountains, gardening, reading, and spending time outside.

From your perspective, why is career exploration such a pivotal part of a student’s educational journey?

(Career exploration) is something I wish I had the opportunity to do when I was in high school. Asking an 18 year old to decide what they want to study in order to find a career is a lot to ask, especially when there may be so much more out there than they know about and are exposed to. I think it is important for students to explore and be exposed to vocations that they may not even have on their radar.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role as part of the WLC team?

I am looking forward to exploring businesses in Johnson County and finding that “perfect” match for a student that gets them excited for their future.

Tonya Caron – School and business liaison for Benton and Iowa counties will be working out of the Iowa County Center in Williamsburg. Tonya will maintain and develop relationships and handle requests for Benton and Iowa County educators and businesses. 

Where did you work prior to WLC? 

I graduated from Illinois State University with a teaching degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders. I taught school in Illinois until we moved to Iowa. Over the course of 20 years I have taught preschool, been a director of religious education programs, substitute taught, and worked at US Bank. I recently taught a BD classroom at Mary Welsh Elementary in Williamsburg.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My husband, Ken, and I enjoy camping and traveling to visit our three children who are widely scattered around these days. I am an avid reader and enjoy cooking. Since we are recent empty nesters I am revisiting some old hobbies and investigating some new ones.

From your perspective, why is career exploration such a pivotal part of a student’s educational journey?

Career exploration is so beneficial for the students not only to find out what they are interested in but also what they are not interested in before they commit a lot of time and money into a career. It also allows the students to explore fields that might have felt “out of reach” for a number of reasons. Career exploration can take some of the unknowns and concerns out of the equation.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role as part of the WLC team?

I am so excited to be a part of the career exploration field with the students in our community. As a former teacher and a mother, I love to see kids discover new interests and strengths. So far I have really enjoyed meeting my new colleagues, the school contacts, and our local business contacts. I am looking forward to seeing how all these pieces come together for the benefit of our students.

Former WLC Student and Kirkwood Community College Grad Lands Dream Job

Riley Troester, a former Anamosa High School student, is living her best life working her dream job with the City of Bozeman Parks Department in Montana. Riley found her passion for working outdoors by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) and Kirkwood Community College.

“I originally wanted to be a meteorologist because I love the weather,” Riley says. “My mom pushed me to do a job shadow though to confirm. I ended up doing two meteorologist job shadows through Workplace Learning Connection starting my sophomore year of high school. They were cool experiences, but I learned there was a lot of math and schooling involved in becoming a meteorologist, and I realized maybe that wasn’t the path for me.”Photo of Riley Troester

Riley switched gears her junior year and completed a WLC internship with the USDA office in Jones County as a conservation aide.

“I did a lot of field visits, walking farmers’ lands, which I really enjoyed. The following year I also did an agronomist job shadow. I realized through those experiences that there was also a lot of office work in those type of roles and that my true passion was being outside,” Riley says.

After high school, Riley went to Kirkwood Community College and completed the Parks and Natural Resources program. After graduating last spring, she made the big move to Montana where she works to maintain and beautify parks and city lands.

“I do a lot of mowing, trimming, and trail cleanup, but I love it because I am outside. It beats sitting at a desk for me. I start at six in the morning, so I get to watch the sun rise every day. Can’t beat that,” says Riley.

“My experiences with Kirkwood really allowed me to get to where I am. My job shadows and internship helped me realize what I didn’t want to do. And because of my internship coordinated by WLC in high school, I was prepared for the internship I did in college. I knew what to expect and I actually had my foot in the door and was able to secure my college internship thanks to my experience at the USDA while in high school. I also took some College Credit in High School classes at Kirkwood while in high school and those really helped me graduate from Kirkwood on time. Then, of course, my time at Kirkwood in the Parks and Natural Resources program helped prepare me for this new adventure.”

Winter/Spring 2023 Internship Portal Opens Sept. 26

We had another successful (and busy!) summer of internships! All told, 234 students across all seven counties got the opportunity to complete internships with area businesses to explore potential careers of interest. Students also met regularly with our internship coordinators to learn key employability and career development skills.Image of Aleena Mansoor with hardhat and reflective vest

Some of the biggest benefits of the internship program include:

  • Students learn about a field before committing to it. Students get an inside look at jobs in their field of interest and can determine if it’s a good fit for them.
  • Students may earn high school credit while exploring a potential career. Internships can help students make decisions about their high school coursework and postsecondary education or training plans.
  • Students can improve their resume. Internship experiences can be listed on applications for college, scholarships, and jobs.
  • Networking opportunities. Internships allow students to meet people at all levels of the company, and those connections can be valuable in the future.
  • Experience the working world firsthand. Students get to experience what it’s like to have a job in their career of interest and what type of work environment and schedule they could expect in that field.

The winter/spring 2023 internship application window is open from September 26 to November 4 at 3 p.m. Applications are open to current high school juniors and seniors. Learn more about program details and requirements.

West Branch Animal Clinic has hosted numerous job shadow and internship experiences over the last 10 years! They are so accommodating and willing to share their passion for veterinary medicine with our students. Thank you, West Branch Animal Clinic, for your support of work-based learning!

“West Branch Animal Clinic has been happy to host many students over the years and provide them with an opportunity to see many different aspects of veterinary medicine,” said Tonya Samuelson, office manager at West Branch Animal Clinic. “We strive to show them that this field is not just about caring for animals but their owners as well and hope that real workplace exposure will help them in making educational decisions.”

Interested in hosting a student and helping to develop your future workforce? Visit our Partners and Volunteers page to learn more.

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