Seniors ready for work
On Wednesday, May 1, Owatonna High School played host to the first Steele Co. Works signing day. During the event, seniors were able to showcase their commitment to pursue a career after graduation.
The Owatonna Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is partnered with Steele Co. Works, Owatonna Workforce Development Inc., and United Way of Steele County, with the purpose of familiarizing local students with career opportunities.
Nine students were recognized and were given support by representatives from local employers, including Viracon, Daikin, Federated, and AmesburyTruth.
Chamber President Brad Meier thanked all those who have partnered with Steele Co. Works before sharing his thoughts on the inaugural event. “We’re really happy to have the entire county involved in this effort,” he said.
“We think this is just as important, if not more important, that you’re here working in our community,” Meier said when comparing the decision to other post-high school options.
Workforce Coordinator Anisha Zak explained her passion for helping students decide on their future. “We continue to seek a college or career going culture for our students,” she said. “The ultimate goal of every parent is to have their child working, making a good wage, and being happy.”
“Today’s resolution is just a start to continue in our efforts to bring more students and parents attention to prosperous career options that Steele County offers people,” she said. “Today is a day to celebrate these bright young individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to prove they have the work ethic, talent, and persistence to achieve a great career.”
OHS Principal Mark Randall thanked area businesses that have helped to bring more students into the workforce. “I think there’s mutual benefits there,” he said. “We want to continue to provide opportunities for the students to go into the work force.”
“I want to congratulate our students, because that’s what we’re here for,” Randall said. “You guys are the best and the brightest of the students entering the work force because of the work that you’ve done. You have a vision, you have something that you know that you want to do in the future, and you’re executing it at a very young age.”
Those who spoke prior to the signing all expressed pride in these nine students. “Some people ask me what is your favorite part about being a superintendent,” Owatonna Superintendent Jeff Elstad said. “What I would tell you, is this right here. This is why I do this job.”
“In a little over a month, I’m going to shake your hand with a diploma in your hand,” Elstad said. “Leadership to me is communicating people’s potential so clearly that they begin to see it themselves. I can tell you that the partnerships we’ve established here between our businesses, and our school, and our parents, and most importantly our students, that’s leadership.”
Elstad feels that this is a positive trend in modern education and that by focusing on both college readiness and career readiness, the district will be better serving its students. “Education is more than taking tests, it is more than learning out of books,” Elstad said.
“We are realizing a new vision of what 21st century education looks like and that is interjecting as many relevant and authentic experiences into what you do every day,” he explained. “It’s an important evolution in education, and you’re on the front end of that.”
After the students and business representatives were introduced, the signing got underway with students signing letters of intent for employers.
Mayor Tom Kuntz was proud not only of the students, but also of the positive benefits career-oriented education can have for the community. “I think it’s just a great opportunity for Owatonna and for our students who are committed to entering the workforce and committed to staying in the community,” Kuntz said. “This is where it all starts.”