EVART — Evart High School freshman Donavin Reagan has an interest in learning more about welding.

With his interest piqued by his brothers over the years, Reagan wants to learn all he can about welding and other career opportunities that may present themselves in related fields.

Rather than spending their day hitting the books, Reagan and his fellow EHS students heard from a variety of professionals and experts in a range of occupations during Career Day on March 15at the school.

“I'm learning things about what I want to go into,” Reagan said. “(Career Day) will help me see if it is actually what I want to be in.”

Reagan's classmate Grant Booher said Career Day helped him learn more about his interest of graphic design.

"I learned a lot about what we should know when we grow up," he said.

In the third year of the event, Principal Jessica Kolenda said organizers wanted to mix it up from past formats, and be more focused on the 16 career cluster fields most careers fall into.

“We wanted to give the students different options than in the past,” she said. “There are 17 professionals in to talk about their fields. We split up the career clusters, having eight of them this year and will have the other eight next year."

Kolenda and her staff organized the day to offer professionals a chance to share about their careers, education and daily tasks, as well as highlighting financial aid and other informational sessions directed at students planning to get a jump on thinking about what they will do after high school.

“We literally shut down the school academics,” the principal said. “The students looked at the different speakers and chose the sessions they wanted to attend.”

Kolenda said Career Day provides students with a chance to learn different aspects of several career fields.

“Career Day is a great opportunity for kids to learn about the careers, and for the school to join forces with the community to work together,” she said. “There's such a focus on the community the needs of the employers here and the opportunities available for students in their hometown.”

The hope of the day's sessions, Kolenda said, was to help students learn about careers that interest them.

“It's not focused only on students going to college,” she said. “College isn't for everyone. There are other opportunities available to students, from the military or other career fields.”

The students began the day hearing from Ingrid Cheslek, chief clinical operations officer at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, about the career opportunities in the health care field.

Students attended five different sessions based on their interests. There were sessions focused on planning for college. However, others included careers in marketing and sales, the Army National Guard, business, management and administration, manufacturing, natural resources, agriculture, finance, engineering and information technology.

Doug Ward, Mecosta-Osceola Career Center instructor of innovative engineering, challenged students to think about their lives 15 years down the road — careers, families, mortgages, etc. — and what they would need to maintain their lifestyle.

The Evart graduate and the students forecast needing an annual salary of nearly $80,000.

"This is not the American dream," he said, pointing at the amount. "This is the American reality."

Ward encouraged students, freshmen to seniors, to create achievable goals and take the necessary steps to meet those goals.