More than 130 eighth graders traveled across the area – even to Arlington and Nacogdoches – to see what it takes to be a professional in a career that interests them, all a part of this year’s Kilgore Middle School Job Shadow Day.
Alexis Olvera had been counting down the months until she could job shadow the Kilgore Police Department, and it did not disappoint, she said.
“It was cool learning all this. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. I couldn’t wait to get into eighth grade because I’ve been wanting to do job shadowing and go to the Police Department… I’ve been wanting to be a police officer when I grow up,” she said. “And if I can’t do that I would go own my own business. To me, being a police officer is my interest. I look up to them. Being a police officer is very awesome.”
The day took the students, including three shadowing at the Kilgore News Herald, to the Spear Training Center to experience a ride around the road course with a police officer.
“I try to do things that are more interactive with the kids because they’re kids,” KPD Evidence Officer Angela Burch said. “You don’t want to lecture them; they get that at school, so we try to show them other positive aspects of law enforcement; instead of all the bad things they see on TV that there’s a lot of good things that we get to enjoy and do.”
The experience allows the students to see the police officers through their own experiences instead of what can be portrayed in the national media or other situations.
“(It) put us on a more personable level with them that we’re not someone to be feared. That we’re actually part of the community and for them to get a chance to kind of experience some of the things that we get to do that are some of the [more fun] things and let them have the opportunity to see if this is what they would like to do when they get older,” she said.
Some students could shadow at their first choice, but for students like Kaden Parham their second choice turned out to be even more interesting.
Parham initially wanted to shadow a nurse but was told he was too young for their office, so he changed medical avenues and shadowed dentist Dr. Megan Hamner. The experience, he said, made him realize what all goes into being a dentist and that it is more than just cleaning people’s teeth.
Before lunchtime, Parham had already designed a crown to fit onto a model tooth, using Hamner’s milling unit.
“It’s great because I think a lot of times people don’t fully understand what goes into being a dentist and being a business owner. I really love the hands-on, them seeing the full day, just all of the activities from checking patients in our hygiene rooms to actually doing treatment to designing and making crowns. It’s really fun. We enjoy it,” Hamner said.
Having participated in Kilgore Middle School’s Job Shadow Day previously, she said, her favorite moment is when the students realize what all happens at a dentist office.
“Just to see how surprised and excited they are when they see it’s not just cleaning teeth or when they see that we’re using technology where we design a crown in a single visit,” she said. “I think my most favorite thing is just to see the excitement on their faces and just opening them to a whole new world that they didn’t know was even a possibility.”
Avery LeBlanc was also introduced to a new possibility when she shadows Abbey Tyson, who creates the graphics for Zippy J’s and Gateway Travel Plaza.
“I feel like this might have opened up her eyes to different avenues for somebody that’s artistic,” Tyson said. “Instead of just paintings, you can do other things with a creative mind.”
The career is not one LeBlanc would have considered before seeing it as a job shadow.
“When I was their age, I had no idea what was involved and I had no idea about graphic design,” Tyson said, noting she originally thought she would be in the medical field. “I think it would have helped me a lot when I was that age if I had been able to do something like that. I’m glad they have the opportunity to do something like this.”
Although Riley Thompson and Karlee Menges know what veterinarians do, they did not realize everything they would get to see and do at North Creek Animal Hospital.
“I think I was expecting basics, like walking dogs and watching them give them a bath or something,” Thompson said. “We got to see a lot more than we thought. We’ve watched two dogs – well, three – get their teeth cleaned and we help give them stuff.”
They got to go into exam rooms also, Menges said. Both considered the teeth cleaning some of the most interesting experience.
Shanna Casayuran learned about the different parts of the eye, various vision tests and the instruments used during her time at Vision Site. Optometry is something she has considered for most of her life and the experience has only solidified her interest in the career.
While shadowing Kilgore ISD Athletic Director Mike Wood, Jose Galvan gained a better understanding of just what it takes to become a football coach and learned it takes more than just signing up to coach, including earning a college degree and the different steps required.
“It’s a lot of fun today, just to take these young men and kind of let them have insight on what it takes to become a coach, the education part of it and the things that you have to do to prepare yourself and then being in the weight room and seeing how we do things,” Wood said. “We’ve had a lot of fun today. He’s a great kid. If he chooses to do that, he’ll be a great coach.”
(Mackenzie Monts, Katherine Shupe and Jeremiah Key contributed to this story)