Bemidji leaders tell their stories during CEO in the Classroom event
Many people can think back to their ninth-grade year and wish they would’ve known more about career paths and development.
BEMIDJI — Many people can think back to their ninth-grade year and wish they would’ve known more about career paths and development.
This is exactly what Abby Randall, executive director for the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, encouraged 20 local CEO to keep in mind while presenting their own journeys to freshmen at Bemidji High School as part of the annual CEO in the Classroom event on Wednesday.
The chamber collaborated with Bemidji Career Academies — a program within the high school that aims to create learning opportunities for students and industry partners in order to prepare the next generation of employees and community leaders — to host the event in its second consecutive year.
“Your story is what matters,” Randall said to the area leaders ahead of their presentations. “Share everything from your challenges, what you did wrong, what you did right and how you got to where you are today. That’s what we’re looking for. We want to build connections with our youth.”
Detailing their journeys
Dispersing into their individual classrooms, the CEO detailed several facets of adulthood as a way for freshmen to begin thinking beyond high school graduation.
Superintendent Jeremy Olson along with Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College President John Hoffman spoke on their respective journeys that lead them to their education administration positions.
Olson originally planned to be an attorney while Hoffman was convinced he would become a pastor. When Olson found his passion in education as a teacher, he found it important to challenge himself by taking his first administrative position as a principal before coming to Bemidji Area Schools.
“It was scary thinking of moving up from that teacher position to a principal position because I hadn’t done that before,” Olson said. “I didn’t know if it was going to go well, but I had to say ‘yes’ to doing the hard things.”
Hoffman joked that his pastoral pursuits fell through because pastors worked on Sundays, the same day as football games. He then shared that at least half of the students in the classroom will end up working in jobs that have not been created yet.
“You must prepare yourself now by making the right choices that will give you more options later in life,” Hoffman said.
Mark and Amanda Haugen, owners of Fox Lake Campground of Bemidji, spoke on fiscal responsibility and the moving parts of being business owners.
Mark shared that a living wage in Minnesota today is around $34,350, and spoke to the relationship between a person’s wage and their lifestyle.
“The thing that kills most people’s opportunities financially is they increase their lifestyle with their wage. As soon as they’re earning $35,000 a year, they go out and buy a new vehicle that’s maybe worth $20,000,” Mark detailed. “They increase their rent, maybe they’re going out to eat a little bit more.
“But if every time you get that raise, bringing in some more money and you spend it, are you really advancing your life? Are you creating wealth or the opportunity to have your own business?”
As his first time taking part in CEO in the Classroom, Olson considers the program a great opportunity to expose students to the realities of life after high school.
“I’m hoping that they start to look at ‘how do I match my passions with my future opportunities?’” Olson said. “The district is very committed to making sure that we connect kids with their passions and wanting to prepare kids for life after high school.”
Following these presentations, Bemidji Career Academies Coordinator Jenny Fraley hopes the collaborative effort between the career academies and the Bemidji Chamber will benefit students in a variety of ways.
“The biggest benefit is that they’re able to connect and see themselves in the CEOs,” Fraley said. “When the CEOs come, the students recognize some of the businesses they’re talking about, they recognize some of the locations, and they're able to start thinking ahead just a little bit.”