By Tim Leeds
More than 200 Havre Middle School eighth-graders gathered in the school assembly room Wednesday to hear about different career opportunities.
Angelina Smith-Walter, materials manager and technical director for General Electric at the BNSF Railroad at Havre; Jenny Jennings, the hydrologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Northeastern Montana; and Rose Cloninger, head custodian at Havre High School described their jobs to the students as part of a School to Career job description workshop series. The theme of Wednesday's presentation was women in nontraditional careers.
Tamara Johnson, School to Career coordinator at Havre High, arranged the speakers for the workshop.
All of the speakers told the students that they can succeed, no matter what people tell them or how difficult it is.
Smith-Walter said the students will need to work hard, accept sacrifices and stay focused to reach their career goals.
"Stay focused no matter what you want," she said. "Don't let anyone stand in the way of your goals. You can make it; you can be whatever you want to be."
Jennings said that even if someone tells you a job is hard to get, you can still reach it if you try.
"You've got to set your mind to do something," she said. "Whatever you want to do, you can do."
Cloninger said it takes hard work and cooperation to succeed, but anyone can do whatever they want.
"I don't believe in the words quit or I can't," she said. "You can always do anything if you put your mind to it."
Johnson said the reason for the workshops is to give the students career experience and exposure to a variety of careers. She said many of these jobs students never would have heard of without the workshops. It gives them a chance to listen to and ask questions of professionals, and might give ideas about later careers, she said.
Smith-Walter said it took a lot of work to get where she is today, but she's glad she did it. She said after getting a business secretarial degree from the Blackfeet Community College, she decided she didn't want to work in an office. She then received a degree from Montana State University-Northern in automotive tech. While she was at MSU-Northern she started with GE in a cooperative education position.
Smith-Walter said that companies don't want shy applicants. She said they want a go-getter who's going to try, whether he or she succeeds or fails. She said companies like diversity, and give an opportunity to everyone, no matter what their race or personality.
Jennings said after she received a chemistry degree from MSU-Northern she looked into working at a laboratory. She said the lab work was very interesting, but she wanted something in the outdoors.
She looked into a job with the BLM. She said she was told it was very difficult to get a job with the federal bureau, since most positions are filled by people who are already with the government.
She said it took a lot of work to get the job and to do the work once she got it, but it was worth it. She warned the students that difficult classes, such as chemistry, biology, calculus and physics are required for the work she does.
"It never crossed my mind I wouldn't get this job," she said. "It took a lot of sacrifices, but it was worth it."
Cloninger has been the head custodian at Havre High for the last nine months. She was a custodian at the middle school for three years before that.
Cloninger said she had to work under someone with a boiler license for 180 hours and then take a state exam before she could get her own boiler license, a requirement for her job.
She said cooperation and being ready for any situation are keys to her position.
"Four of us might be working on a job," she said. "We'll all learn something from the job and from each other. Always listen. Nobody knows everything. The only way to learn is to ask questions and to listen."