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Area high school students came away Thursday from Central Community College-Columbus with a simple message: It's never too early to start planning for the future.

The Connecting the Dots program, hosted by the Nebraska Extension in Platte County, returned to CCC for the second time in an effort to provide an environment for teens to experience the value of education and see the connection of future careers, according to the extension’s website.

“It gives us a chance to learn about careers and something we have to look forward to in the future,” said Nathaniel Eisenmenger, a freshman at Scotus Central Catholic High School.

Freshmen and sophomores from Scotus Central Catholic, Howells-Dodge, Humphrey High, Humphrey St. Francis, Leigh and Clarkson high schools were given the opportunity to network with local employers representing 16 career fields. These groups included agriculture, food and natural resources, architecture and construction; arts, audio/video technology and communications.

“The idea of starting college and career readiness type of experiences earlier is important,” said Jill Goedeken, extension educator in Platte County for Nebraska Extension, noting she was excited to have several schools participating for the first time, particularly those from rural areas. “A lot of times we think about reserving those types of activities for older high school students but the reality is that we want them to have some career exploration early in their high school careers so that it helps them determine what goals they’re working toward.”

Business representatives donated their morning helping attendees find their paths to a successful future. They provided students with a range of advice, from gaining experience through internships and job shadowing to finding their interests and being open-minded.

Goedeken said this was the most crucial part of the program.

“We want them to bring the experience of how they got to their job and what they do and, maybe, the opportunities locally in that job, as well,” she said.

First-time participant Eisenmenger said he’s always had a knack for editing videos and audio. Because of that, he opted to explore the different career paths relating to his interest.

From the event, Eisenmenger said he learned which education program he needs to pursue and the minimum requirements needed for his field of interest.

Dee Hanson, marketing director at Bank of the Valley, said the event benefited local employers as much as it did the students. A second-time volunteer, Hanson said it gave her the opportunity to take a sneak peek at the future workforce and their talents.

“It’s a great chance to connect with kids in our community and talk to them about job opportunities that we have, not just at my organization but the jobs that are available in Columbus in general,” said Hanson, noting it helps retain local talent."

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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