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Straight from the top: Business leaders talk careers with BHS students for ‘CEOs in the Classroom’

BEMIDJI--Bemidji High School ninth-graders got a peek at their post-high school options Wednesday at "CEOs in the Classroom," where local business and community leaders had the chance to talk about their careers and outlooks.

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Kevin Cease, owner of Cease Family Funeral Home, speaks to a room full of high school freshmen for a "CEO in the Classroom" presentation on Wednesday morning at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI-Bemidji High School ninth-graders got a peek at their post-high school options Wednesday at "CEOs in the Classroom," where local business and community leaders had the chance to talk about their careers and outlooks. At one talk, Kevin Cease, the lively funeral director at Cease Family Funeral Homes, told a group of about 20 freshmen that he wanted to be a teacher, social worker, or a crisis counselor when he was in school rather than step into the family business. "I kind of fought being a funeral director for a very, very, very long time. And then, in college, I had an 'aha!' moment and I realized, 'Oh, that's what a funeral director does.' It is a helping profession and we help people through crises. I get to do exactly what I wanted to do and I didn't even know that's what it was," Cease said in front of a PowerPoint slide that read "You Must Prepare Yourself Now By Making the Right Choices that Will Give You Good Options Later on in Your Life." "Your job is to figure out what the universe is trying to tell you," he added.
In a presentation that bounced between a philosophy lecture, pep talk, and retrospective, Cease talked about his relatively recent foray into beekeeping-"Your decision just to explore something isn't a commitment to do it forever."-and how education "never stops." In front of a slide about the reasons people choose their careers, Cease waxed poetic about his own. "You would think that my job is a very sad job, and it is. There is some times when it's really really sad because I lose people that I know or friends that I know...But I get such job satisfaction by being there for somebody. I feel empowered and passionate about helping people," Cease said. "I don't love death and I don't love tragedy, but I love what I do." Cease said he wished he had mastered English skills earlier in life and encouraged students to focus on math and science; reading and communications; and technology skills. He also stressed developing good leadership and teamwork skills, study habits and discipline early in school and in life. "There's a trajectory here that you guys are kind of just starting on," Cease said. Cease also went over a hypothetical monthly budget for a new member of the workforce, and asked how many students in the room-who were all in their early to mid teenage years-were already earning money. About 10 raised their hands, and described jobs ranging from farmhand to restaurant worker. The event featured 18 other Bemidji-area business and community leaders who gave similar presentations to other freshman classrooms, including representatives from Sanford Health, Beltrami County, Karvakko Engineering and the Pioneer. CEOs in the Classroom coincided with registration for the high school's new "career academies," which are designed to help students use internships, job shadowing and coursework packages to help students explore fields like business management and manufacturing. Principal Brian Stefanich said the event could help familiarize BHS students with the area's businesses and business leaders. "It's not another teacher telling them, 'This is what you'll be doing,'" Stefanich said. "This is actually hearing it from the people that are in the trenches." The inaugural event was sponsored by the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, several Bemidji-area business and the high school.BEMIDJI-Bemidji High School ninth-graders got a peek at their post-high school options Wednesday at "CEOs in the Classroom," where local business and community leaders had the chance to talk about their careers and outlooks.At one talk, Kevin Cease, the lively funeral director at Cease Family Funeral Homes, told a group of about 20 freshmen that he wanted to be a teacher, social worker, or a crisis counselor when he was in school rather than step into the family business."I kind of fought being a funeral director for a very, very, very long time. And then, in college, I had an 'aha!' moment and I realized, 'Oh, that's what a funeral director does.' It is a helping profession and we help people through crises. I get to do exactly what I wanted to do and I didn't even know that's what it was," Cease said in front of a PowerPoint slide that read "You Must Prepare Yourself Now By Making the Right Choices that Will Give You Good Options Later on in Your Life.""Your job is to figure out what the universe is trying to tell you," he added.
In a presentation that bounced between a philosophy lecture, pep talk, and retrospective, Cease talked about his relatively recent foray into beekeeping-"Your decision just to explore something isn't a commitment to do it forever."-and how education "never stops."In front of a slide about the reasons people choose their careers, Cease waxed poetic about his own."You would think that my job is a very sad job, and it is. There is some times when it's really really sad because I lose people that I know or friends that I know...But I get such job satisfaction by being there for somebody. I feel empowered and passionate about helping people," Cease said. "I don't love death and I don't love tragedy, but I love what I do."Cease said he wished he had mastered English skills earlier in life and encouraged students to focus on math and science; reading and communications; and technology skills. He also stressed developing good leadership and teamwork skills, study habits and discipline early in school and in life."There's a trajectory here that you guys are kind of just starting on," Cease said.Cease also went over a hypothetical monthly budget for a new member of the workforce, and asked how many students in the room-who were all in their early to mid teenage years-were already earning money. About 10 raised their hands, and described jobs ranging from farmhand to restaurant worker.The event featured 18 other Bemidji-area business and community leaders who gave similar presentations to other freshman classrooms, including representatives from Sanford Health, Beltrami County, Karvakko Engineering and the Pioneer.CEOs in the Classroom coincided with registration for the high school's new "career academies," which are designed to help students use internships, job shadowing and coursework packages to help students explore fields like business management and manufacturing.Principal Brian Stefanich said the event could help familiarize BHS students with the area's businesses and business leaders."It's not another teacher telling them, 'This is what you'll be doing,'" Stefanich said. "This is actually hearing it from the people that are in the trenches."The inaugural event was sponsored by the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, several Bemidji-area business and the high school.

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Bemidji High School freshman Nash Tietz responds to a questions from Kevin Cease during a "CEO in the Classroom" presentation on Wednesday at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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