Valuable experience gained for graduates, future seniors

Jordan Gerard/SGH Students and their employers pictured above participated in a program that gave seniors and juniors work experience. Left to right: Chris Lamm, Casey Otterness, Hunter Erickson, Kyle Thompson and Tristan Brainard. In front is Gloria (left) and Makena Speltz.

Seniors and juniors took the opportunity to gain work experience during their second semester at Spring Grove High School.

The experience helped students and employers together by pairing them up. 

Seniors Nikki Hagen, Chris Lamm, Hunter Erickson, Makena Speltz, Casey Otterness and junior Tristan Brainard enjoyed their work experience outside of school. Some of them are also hired on for the summer.

Otterness said it gave him a new perspective of what he wants to do in his future. He worked at Lee Auto Body.

“I worked in a team. I learned to listen to directions,” he said. “I made some mistakes but I fixed them.”

The opportunity is a new way to level up in the world of “You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience.”

“It was really good,” Lamm said. “I don’t need to worry about internships as much because I have experience.”

Lamm enjoyed his job at LaX Fabricating, where he worked with several different people on their staff and 3-D design. He also job shadowed their quality control person and then ended up working at the plasma table. He has a job locked in for the summer there.

Principal Nancy Gulbranson said the school has been planning career opportunities for some time.

“We talked to the kids first and asked, ‘Where would you like to work?’” she said. “When we called people, there was no hesitation in their voice, which doesn’t surprise me because we have good communities around here.”

Gulbranson said the school was appreciative for the employers to take the kids on. Many of them remember doing their own work experience during high school, like Kyle Thompson did.

“I worked at home on my mom and dad’s farm, lambing out ewes,” he said. 

Thompson is the owner of Thompson Club Lambs in Mabel. Hunter Erickson worked there for his experience. 

“It was nice to get out of school and do something else,” he said. 

In the morning, he helped with chores and then in the afternoon, he would help with a variety of tasks.

For some students, the position turned out to be more than expected, for themselves and their employers.

Makena Speltz worked with her mom, Gloria, who is the Activity Director at Gundersen Tweeten Nursing Home. It was easy for Makena to slide into the job, as she already knows the staff, residents and layout of the center.

“She was able to take direction,” Gloria said. “She took on setting up the Southeast Minnesota Activity Workshop. She made brochures, mailing labels, attendance sheets and so much more.”

Makena worked on that project for a few months and also attended the conference, learning about holistic therapy. She also helped her mom catch up on files, forms, creating forms and re-organized her office.

“I’m going to miss her,” Gloria said.

Makena added she enjoyed the job and the opportunity helped her decide what to do after graduating.

Brainard worked on Fred Williams’s dairy farm and Hagen worked at Ellingson Elevator. They were both excited to hear about the opportunity.

Every other Friday, a speaker came in and talked to the students about career information, such as different work environments and how to make their resume appealing to potential employers.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said they were grateful for the first inaugural group to take the risk, but make it work.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “We are meeting the needs of students before they head out into the real world.”