By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A robotic dog, a plastic model of a fetus inside a womb, tactical police gear and animal pelts were some of the items on display during a career fair for eighth-graders from Scott County Catholic schools. St. Ambrose University hosted the event March 3 in the Rogalski Center.
Students from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf and All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle schools in Davenport met with different vendors and with students from St. Ambrose to learn about college life. All the eighth-graders attended a session on vocations. Boys met with Father Jacob Greiner, vocations director for the Diocese of Davenport, and the girls met with Sister Anthony Worrell, OSF.
The annual career fair that began in 2012 with about two dozen business vendors continues to grow, said Leigh Johnson, counselor at Lourdes. Each of the students who attended chose eight vendors of interest, she said. “We try to get them in (to visit) their top three choices.”
Amy Tallman, counselor at St. Paul the Apostle, was excited to see new vendors including Niabi Zoo and Nahant Marsh, which focus on animals, nature and the environment. A record 38 vendors this year required moving the talk with St. Ambrose students and the lunch to a different part of the Rogalski Center.
Scott Smith, a maintenance electrician from Nestle Purina in Clinton, operated Spot, a robotic dog by Boston Dynamics. He said he has been learning how to operate the dog, which inspects machinery in the plant. Spot is equipped with an infrared camera and moves into various positions to perform the inspections.
“This frees up our manpower,” Smith said. The robotic dog’s cameras allow Smith to take pictures and analyze video of various components. Currently the company is testing the product. If everything works out, Smith hopes that Spot can operate 24 hours a day and not just first shift. To accomplish this, more workers would undergo training to operate the robotic dog.
Human resources personnel Lori Cawiezell and Montanna Krogram joined Smith. The two women talked with students about various departments in which workers are employed and about recycling and waste initiatives the company uses in the pet food facilities.
David Ragone, a coach and recruiter at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, talked about the importance of education. “What matters is academics,” he told the students who stood at his station. He encouraged them to work on getting good grades in high school. He emphasized that colleges look at the overall grade point average, not just junior and/or senior year. “Grades are number one in selecting our students and athletes.”
One student asked if Augustana would accept an athlete who excelled in his sport but didn’t have good grades. “No. Having athletic ability is great, but grades are number one. We prepare our students (and athletes) for the future. We prepare them for their future career and to be a good husband, father and community member. We love it when our athletes come back with their wife and children to introduce them to us.”
Someone asked if an Augustana football player had ever made it into the National Football League. Yes, Kenny Anderson, Ragone said. Anderson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1971. He later coached for the Bengals. Ragone emphasized to the students “you need to perform in the classroom wherever you go — high school and college.”
Eighth-grader Cayden Leners from John F. Kennedy said he enjoyed the career fair. “It was fun.” He attended sessions on engineering, construction, and finance and computer technology. “I might consider the construction industry,” he said.
All Saints student Shannan Makena said the day was “interesting, with lots of detail.” Some of the stations she attended were nursing, health, acting and coaching. “I want to be a doctor or entrepreneur.”