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Operation Preparation held at HCHS

Eighth-graders from all corners of Harlan County gathered this week at Harlan County High School to learn about future career possibilities while taking a look at their school home for the next four years.

Operation Preparation is an annual three-day event sponsored by Gear Up and coordinated by district director Lisa Lewis. Each day of the program focused on a different career track. Tuesday was education, followed by public service/business on Wednesday and the health field on Thursday.

Mark Bell, of Harlan ARH, talked about his career path on Thursday, which took him from the Harlan Daily Enterprise to the hospital in 1990. He also offered advice on finding a career.

“Love something enough to be good at it,” Bell said. “Figure out something people need enough to pay you for it.”

Bell said it was also important to develop relationships, noting that many jobs are landed because the person doing the hiring either knows the job candidate or someone close to him/her. He said being able to work with others and dependability.

“Ninety percent of what happens to you is because you were there. The most important thing is to show up,” said Bell. “People who make the team better are most valuable. Show up and work hard if you want to succeed. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Leann Turner, the leader of the medical assisting program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, told students that jobs in the medical field were expected to grow by 23 percent. She said graduates of the two-year program at SKCTS, offered at three campuses, could expect to make $34,000 annually.

Turner was one of many speakers who encouraged students to take advantage of the dual-credit program at the high school, noting that high school students could graduate with over 30 hours of college credit and finish an associate degree in only one year.

Joy Pennington, the nursing program coordinator at Southeast, told students that the college offered both two-year and four-year programs. She said graduates of the two-year program could make $44,000 to $60,000 per year. She also talked about how rewarding a nursing career could be.

“Nursing becomes who you are,” she said. “It’s a passion. There are so many different things you can do. It’s a wonderful and amazing field.”

David McGill, the Harlan County emergency management director for the past 12 years, echoed Bell’s comments when he said to “find a job you are passionate about.”

McGill also told the students to “be patient and apply yourself while you are in school.”

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley began the program on Wednesday by talking about the different careers he worked in, including with WYMT, before moving into work with local government, eventually leading to his election to Harlan County’s top office.

“Harlan County is well known. Be proud of where you’re from. Be proud of being a Harlan Countian,” Mosley told the eighth-graders.

Mosley told the students he was a proponent of the community college system and that they should consider staying close to home for the first half of their college education.

“Don’t feel like you’re pressured to have to go somewhere else,” said Mosley, a Southeast and LMU graduate. “You can do that here at a much lower cost. If you don’t have the financial resources, consider staying here for two years.”

Shane Jacobs, the public affairs officer for Kentucky State Police Post 10 in Harlan, told the students they should be careful in how they deal with social media, noting “you are creating your background now.”

Jacobs described the process for being accepted to the state police academy and said it included a rigorous background check that included social media, as well as talking to former teachers and former employers. Passing a physical test is also required, along with oral interviews and a polygraph test.

April Collins, the owner of Sassy Trash In Harlan, talked to the students about what it takes to have a successful small business.

“A lot of dedication is needed to be your own boss,” Collins said. “You don’t have to leave Harlan to be successful.”

Collins said a catchy name helps and stressed that location is crucial. She added that more local businesses are needed, noting that many visitors to her shop are from out of town, including some fans of the television show “Justified” who are looking for the “Harlan County experience.”

Visitors recently were from places such as the Netherlands and Canada, as well as Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Atlanta.

In education day on Tuesday, Doug Herren told the students about the many career programs offered at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Herren told the students he opened an electrical contracting company after 17 years of working in the mining industry. He then went on to Eastern Kentucky University to finish his degree before beginning work at Southeast.

Programs that Herren discussed included auto and diesel tecnhology, welding, computerized machine and manufacturing, electrical technology and fiber optics, education, construction technology and air conditioning and medical assisting.

Tammy Fields, the assistant principal at Cawood Elementary School, shared her journey from being one of six children and the first in her family to go to college and then her career as an educator.

“I always knew what I wanted to do,” said Fields as she described her childhood and how a former teacher made a huge impact on her life. “My journey began that day. I wanted to be able to reach out and make a difference.”

Tami Brock, an English teacher at Harlan County High School, talked to the students about the college process, which she helps many HCHS students with in her dual credit English 101 and 102 classes. Brock told the students that they can now complete over a year of college classes through the dual credit program at no cost to them or their family.

“Your best investment is your education,” Brock said. “I’m still getting paid for mine 30 years after receiving my degree.”

Lewis talked to the students about their “brand new start in high school” and the importance of the dual credit program. She also told the students they can receive $2,500 per year for college through the KEES program if they have the grades and reach a 28 on the ACT.