Students get glimpse into local jobs

Photos by Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Jasper Middle School eighth-graders watched Jasper Volunteer firefighters take apart a car Wednesday during a job shadowing day at the fire station.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER —The 100-foot ladder on the fire truck retracted slowly, finally coming to rest in a neat, folded position on top of the vehicle. At the back of the truck at the remote control station which moves the ladder back and forth and up and down was not a professionally trained firefighter, but an eighth-grade girl with wide eyes and mouth agape.

Jasper Middle School student Ella Peath hopped down off of the truck, her hand clutched to her chest and a smile on her face as she greeted her friend, Caroline Theil, who had also just controlled the ladder.

“It was a little bit scary. I thought it was going to fall,” Caroline said.

About 20 eighth-graders had gathered Wednesday at the Jasper Fire Department station on Sixth Street as part of an annual Junior Achievement job shadowing day. About 30 local businesses agreed to host students for several hours and let them learn the responsibilities of the job.

Jasper Middle School eigth-graders watched Jasper Volunteer Fireman Nick Nowakowski climb the ladder on a firetruck Wednesday.

The fire station kids began their day by watching a demonstration of a car extrication. The firefighters used hydraulic rescue tools, commonly known as the Jaws of Life, to completely sever the top half of a totaled vehicle. A rescue like that could take upwards of 10 minutes in an emergency situation, Fire Chief Kenny Hochgesang explained to the group.

Next, Hochgesang brought out the shiny red trucks and showed the students each little nozzle and compartment the firefighters use when out on the job. The fire department tour ended with an impressive display of hose power as the firefighters sent a heavy stream sailing over parked cars near the square.

Through the Junior Achievement program, about 275 JMS and Holy Family School eighth-grade students spent the past month learning about job opportunities through guest speakers and worksheets in their social studies classes. They made lists of the businesses and organizations in town they most wanted to visit for this culminating event, and teachers assigned them to a location.

Caroline explained she doesn’t necessarily want to be a firewoman or policewoman in the future, but she knew she wanted to learn more about what those local heroes do on a daily basis.

“It’s interesting, the fire department, police stations and EMTs do so much,” she said.

Across the street, a few middle school students got a literal taste of a much different sort of career at Chocolate Bliss. JMS eighth-graders Raelynn Brosmer, Eric Nordhoff and Ben Elliott tried a variety of adventurous balsamic vinegar flavors and even learned to dip their own chocolate-covered pretzels, a task which store owner Ann Recker said is a big task for her staff around Easter time.

Jasper Middle School eight-grader Raelyn Brosmer assembled an assorted box of sugar-free chocolates while job shadowing at Chocolate Bliss in Jasper on Wednesday. Brosmer was one of 275 eighth-graders from Jasper Middle School and Holy Family who took part in the annual Junior Achievement job shadowing day. Students visited 30 area businesses to learn about a variety of professions.

“You’ve got to melt the chocolate in the microwave and get the pretzel. You dip it in the chocolate about three-fourths of the way down the pretzel, and then you take the fork and just drizzle back and forth,” Eric explained as he stuffed his finished pretzels into a decorative baggie.

The three students also helped Recker put together a boxed assortment of chocolate treats the store sells. Their first lesson was in food safety; the kids had to don a new pair of crinkly plastic gloves for each task to ensure they didn’t contaminate the product. Then they were asked to find the right sweets in the inventory to place in each box.

“Two dark turtles, two milk turtles, two dark toffee squares, two milk toffee squares,” Recker read off a list of the box’s contents she gave to Eric and Ben. “We’re going to let you try to figure out what’s what.”

The six girls working at JC Penney on Wednesday also had to figure some things out on their own. They were tasked with searching the dressing rooms for items left behind and restocking them on the shelves.

“That goes in the underwear section down there,” JMS student Sabra King told her friend, Kendall Kreilein, with a giggle as they examined one of the dressing room racks.

But the girls’ favorite activity was learning to check out customers on the register.

“This is our coupon now so we’re going to rip it up because it’s done being used,” JC Penney’s lead expert Katherine Swertl explained to JMS eighth-grader Kaitlynn Moffatt after a customer handed them a magazine clipping to reduce the price of her items. They moved on to swiping a credit card.

“We’re going to give that back to her,” Swertl instructed Kaitlynn. “You’re going to hit enter, and it’s authorizing.”

Sabra said she listed JC Penney as one of her top choices because she often shops there and wanted to see what the workers’ days are like. Fellow student Emmi Gramelspacher-Zehr agreed that the experience opened up ideas for a future job when she gets to high school.

“I would work here. I love talking to the customers,” Emmi said. “Oh my gosh, it’s fun.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

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