The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith

DHS hosts Mentor Round Table

Organizers hope the event will be a launching pad to reinstate an internship program


Brianna Wray

Col. Co. Sheriff Joe Helm (center) listens as Ryan Ortuno (right), an attorney with Marinella and Boggs, talked about his reasons for going into the field of Law, and he discussed the best reasons for becoming an attorney. He also talked about the pitfalls and benefits of a career in Law.

DAYTON-For high school students, having the opportunity to meet with people from many walks of working life is important as they begin their journey into life after high school and the arena of the world of work.

Students in grades eight through twelve at Dayton High School had that opportunity when adults representing twenty-seven different careers were on hand at Dayton High School on May 24 to help them explore the possibilities.

The building trades, business, medicine, law, agriculture, science, technology, engineering, art and government were all well represented during the first of its kind Mentor Round Table.

High School Senior Gavin Waggoner, who chose to attend the Round Table featuring Sheriff Joe Helm, Ryan Ortuno, and 16th Legislative Dist. Rep. Skyler Rude asked many questions of them.

Waggoner said he is certain that law is his field of choice, but he hasn't been able to decide whether to become a police officer, detective, or interpret the law as attorneys do.

"I decided that actually meeting people who have been in the fields, and know about it would help me make my decision," he said.

Waggoner said hearing from Ortuno, Helm and Rude has helped a little.

"But it is also confusing because each one sounds more exciting the more I hear about it," he said.

Waggoner said he will be attending Walla Walla Community College in the fall, after which he will transfer to a four-year university, and that he will definitely study political science.

"I think that it couldn't be more beautiful," freshman Caleiha House said about the art on display at the Entrepreneurship Round Table.

House said she was inspired after hearing from Jessica Griffin, owner of Dayton's Creative Co-op, and from local photographer and artist Vicki Zoller.

"I thought it was interesting because I'm not a fan of people being the boss of me, but I also like being able to fix all the problems and having all the answers and solutions to them. I also like the paintings that are in here. I love the art, actually," she said.

House said she is definitely going to college and she wants to be an artist and musician.

"I'm a freshman right now. I have three years to continue my mission," she said.

In December, 2018, as part of the Sherwood Leadership Class, high school librarian Valerie Kerr and her daughter Juniper, who is in the tenth grade, surveyed students about their career interests, with the goal of developing a mentorship program which would connect them with adults in their chosen career fields.

"The data we collected showed that almost all students in the 9th-12th grades had at least one career choice in mind. Most knew the steps to get into the career, but almost everyone wanted time with adult mentors," said Kerr.

When the Sherwood Leadership Class ultimately chose to pursue a different project, the Kerrs decided to continue working on creating a mentorship program, and they reached out to the Port of Columbia Economic Development Coordinator, Kathryn Witherington, who had been working on developing a Career Connected Learning program.

"The Port and Kathryn have been key in this program," Kerr said. "Her follow through, hard work, and flexibility have been instrumental."

Kerr said Witherington was in charge of all the selections and contact with the small group mentors.

Witherington said the details were finalized only a month ago and that most of the presenters are people living and working locally.

"That's heartening to see, from an economic development standpoint," she said.

Kerr said the Dayton School District has had an internship program in the past.

The goal is to rebuild that program using the Mentor Round Table for a launching pad, she said.

Having a viable internship program could then connect Dayton High School students with internships and would provide students with additional mentoring, and with job shadowing experience, she said.


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