Area high school students learn about careers

Danville Fire Marshal Chris McMahon, right, talks with high school sophomores, from left, Bailee Whittaker, who is measuring her pulse, and Aleysia Miles, both of Georgetown-Ridge Farm, and Kira DeWitt of Hoopeston during the Health Professions and Engineering Day Friday morning at Danville Area Community College.

DANVILLE – More than 100 area high school sophomores learned about career opportunities in health care and engineering Friday morning at Danville Area Community College.

The career exploration day began in 2018 to inform area high school students of opportunities in the health care field. Careers in engineering were added at last year’s event.

Now in its third year, the Health Professions and Engineering Day welcomed about 120 students from Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Hoopeston Area and Oakwood on Friday.

Nick Chatterton, Vermilion Vocational Education Delivery System director who also oversees College Express, said new to this year’s event was informing high school students about the Project Lead the Way program at DACC and encouraging them to sign up for it.

“We’re really showcasing Project Lead the Way, which is part of College Express,” Chatterton said.

“The need for engineers and techs is great, so Doug Hunter is here to pitch the program,” Chatterton said of Hunter, who is the mechatronics instructor at DACC.

Students from the county schools can choose to take Project Lead the Way courses as their College Express focus. Project Lead the Way at DACC also is available to Danville High School students in their senior year.

Hunter said the Project Lead the Way program focuses on digital electronics and computer-integrated manufacturing.

On Friday, area students participated in three of 16 different 20-minute presentations given in classrooms and labs all over the Mary Miller Complex.

Students first had to pick between engineering and health professions and then were assigned to three different interactive sessions to attend.

Each of the high school groups participating in the workshops were connected with a DACC student who acted as a mentor and made sure the student groups found their way around the Mary Miller Complex.

Six engineering workshops were presented by DACC faculty or engineering alumni representing local and national companies, such as Danville Metal Stamping, City of Danville, Gleisner Engineering and Whiting-Turner Contracting. The presenters gave an overview of their company, reviewed a recent project and related their past experiences as DACC engineering students.

Ten hands-on health care workshops given by DACC faculty and local health professionals covered the areas of medical assistant, certified nursing assistant (CNA), nursing, health information technology, radiology, sonography, chiropractic medicine, surgical/respiratory technology and mental health.

Danville Fire Marshal Chris McMahon kept students engaged as he talked about how he became interested in firefighting when he was the same age as the students.

“It started out by riding in an ambulance with a friend. I was 16,” he said. “I thought it was cool.”

That led McMahon to volunteer at the Danville Fire Department as a firefighter cadet and eventually to a full-time job with the department.

“If you love people and you love helping people, this is the job for you,” he said.

McMahon asked the students if any of them liked roller coasters.

“This job runs off adrenaline,” he said. “We go from zero to 100 in seconds.

“Instead of a 45-second adrenaline rush on a roller coaster ride, your adrenaline is flowing for several hours,” he said.

The students watched a clip from “Live Rescue” of firefighters battling an apartment fire in California.

“Notice how everything is moving quickly?” McMahon asked.

“I’d be scared,” Hoopeston Area sophomore Kira DeWitt said.

McMahon reassured Kira that firefighters are prepared for anything because they train on a daily basis, adding that Friday afternoon he was going to attend hazardous material training and then practice hanging off a rope.

“This is the best career. I love my job,” he said. “What other job can you work 24 hours on and then have 48 hours off?

“It’s a great career, but it’s a dangerous job,” he added. “All the way up to the 1980s, you had up to 30 minutes to get out of a house during a fire. Now you have to get out in four minutes because of all the plastics in furniture.”

The students learned about the medical kits that are carried on the fire trucks, tried on an air tank, and picked up a fire extinguisher and an extrication tool.

They also climbed into the cab on a Danville fire truck and even took turns spraying the aerial hose.

In addition to the firefighting session, this particular group of students also visited an X-ray lab and learned about respiratory therapy.

“This was definitely my favorite,” Bailee said of the firefighting session. “I liked it because of the fire truck and because it was more hands-on.”

“I’m definitely interested in it,” Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin sophomore Garrett Huls said of firefighting. “But I also liked seeing what else was available.”

Recommended for you