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High schoolers invade Hillsboro's Civic Center in search of careers


From music producers to civil engineers, high school students in Hillsboro know what careers they want to pursue after graduation — or maybe they don’t.

Helping students find their way in the world was the motivation for “Youth Invasion,” a career exploration day held Tuesday at the Hillsboro Civic Center.

About 200 students from Hillsboro high schools attended the event, which included occupational workshops presented by employees from many departments of city government, including police, fire, information services, public works, water and planning.

“The city is helping to educate its youth about what it does and how they can potentially participate,” said Lorena Colcer, co-chair of the Youth Advisory Council, which worked with the city and school district to produce the event. “Lots of students are very confused about what they want. It’s very hard to make a final decision. At 17 or 18, going off to college seems like a very final decision.”

Colcer is a senior at Glencoe High School. Like many of her classmates, she knows what she likes — speech, the debate team and the school newspaper — but doesn’t know if those are her life’s career goals.

A career path in science or engineering might be more appropriate, said Colcer, who was sure of at least one thing: “I’m very much a people person,” she said.

In fact, “working well with others” was a theme of many of the workshop presentations.

“Collaboration and communication are huge,” said Maria Schlangen, a geographic information system analyst with Hillsboro Information Services.

Schlangen helps manage GIS data for several city departments that use the information for planning, development and maintenance of city resources.

“Sometimes you have to be Sherlock Holmes,” Schlangen said. “It takes a lot of critical thinking, and you have to be able to think outside the box.”

Bruce Montgomery also spends a lot of time communicating with others.

As a public relations officer for the Hillsboro Fire Department, Montgomery works with local businesses and the media to publicize department services and fire prevention programs. Montgomery said writing and presentation skills are important for his job, but he also had some personal advice for students.

“Pick a path and start heading down that path,” he said, “but don’t be afraid to switch it.”

Montgomery came to emergency services relatively late in his career. He was a staff pastor at Evergreen Christian Center and volunteered time with the fire department as a chaplain before being hired as a city employee. He still does chaplain duties along with PR work.

A fleet of city fire trucks, police vehicles and a Washington County Sheriff’s Office tactical unit parked on the Civic Center’s North Plaza during the event and were a popular draw for students.

James Phuangpinyo, a sophomore at Liberty High School, got inside a police cruiser for a look around.

The computer mounted next to the driver’s seat was one of the first things that caught his attention.

Phuangpinyo said he is considering mechanical engineering in the aerospace industry as a possible career, but wanted to learn more about police work.

“Because it’s interesting,” he said, “and I like helping people.”

That same altruistic nature had Keanna Barnes visiting all of the emergency services workshops to see how the occupations differed. Besides law enforcement, Barnes is considering a nursing career.

“I want to help people,” she said. “Definitely.”

Barnes, a junior at Century High School, was with a group of AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — students that attended Youth Invasion in pursuit of meeting part of the career credits the district requires for graduation.

“This is a chance to get a bigger idea of what’s out there,” Barnes said.

One of the AVID supervisors was Trudy Bothum, a secretary at Century who helps with the school-to-work program.

“We encourage kids to challenge themselves,” Bothum said. “We want them to take advanced placement courses and explore all of their options. We want them to do more than they think they can do.”