Welding, engineering and using handcuffs

October 13, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – Eighth-grade girls from across La Porte County got a close-up look at some nontraditional jobs for women, and some hands-on experience, at the A.K. Smith Center on Wednesday.

Women who work in nontraditional roles – welder, firefighter, engineer and many others – talked to the girls about their jobs and educational backgrounds during the first half of the annual N.E.W. (Nontraditional Employment for Women) Opportunities Workshop.

During the second half of the day, the girls were able to try their hands at different skills, including welding, construction and automotive technology.

“I am always looking for opportunities for all students, but especially the girls, to open their eyes to new experiences,” said Arielle Smith, school counselor at Barker Middle School.

“This was a great opportunity for them to explore careers that are not traditional for women to get into. I was really trying to pump them up throughout the week to get them ready for this event, so we were all really excited about this.”

Nyika Leggett, social worker at Krueger Middle School, agreed.

“Exposure – they get an opportunity to see some things, and in middle school, they’re actually at the age where they can start making decisions and setting some goals before they get to high school,” she said.

Barker eighth-grader Anyiah Gilyard said coming into Wednesday’s workshop, she thought she might like to work as a police officer; so she wasn’t surprised to find that the criminal justice “try-it” session was her favorite.

“You get to slam people, and I got handcuffed. That was pretty cool,” Gilyard said.

And, she said, the presentations exposed her to other careers in the field of criminal justice, including that of a prosecutor, which made her consider wanting to become an attorney.

Elivia Westphal, an eighth-grader at New Prairie Middle School, said she came to the workshop wanting to be a large animal veterinarian.

“Now, that’s seriously changed,” she said after welding pieces of metal together to form a stick figure person. “The welding try-it was awesome; it was so much fun. I for sure want to do it again.”

Welding and criminal justice were the fields she said she liked most after the workshop.

“We want students to step outside the box and think about careers that they wouldn’t normally go after,” said Audra Peterson, director of La Porte County Career & Technical Education.

“When you’re a girl growing up, people tend to say you’re going to be a ballet dancer; you’re going to be an office person; or you’re going to be a nurse or teacher. And we don’t step out of the box to think about all of the other careers that are out there. And if students aren’t exposed to those things, then they’ll never know.”

N.E.W. Opportunities Workshop presenters at a glance:

• Mandy Cannan, welder, New York Blower Co.

• Katie Collignon, athletic director/basketball coach, Marquette Catholic High School

• Margaret Dickerson, engineering project manager, City of La Porte

• Bridgette Gallas, risk consulting manager, Crowe Risk Consulting Services

• Sacha Gee-Burns, environmental outreach coordinator, Solid Waste District of La Porte County

• Jennie Girton, financial advisor, Edward Jones

• Beth Golding, associate professor of information technology, Ivy Tech Community College

• Sue Harrison, director of transportation, Michigan City Area Schools

• Allyson Headd, principal, Marquette Catholic High School

• Sharon Hert, internal affairs investigator and evidence technician, Westville Correctional Facility

• Dorota Janik, executive director, Reins of Life

• Kenneva Mapps, internal affairs supervisor, Investigations and Intelligence Department, Westville Correctional Facility

• Jocelyn McCray, regional account manager, Steel Cities Steels

• Kelly Molchan, talent acquisition and employee engagement specialist, Sullair

• Kayla Nieto, firefighter, Springfield Township Fire Department

• Aly Olson, therapeutic riding instructor, Reins of Life

• Jessica Rain, unit team manager, Westville Correctional Facility

• Kathleen Rich, PhD, Critical Care and Cardiovascular Advanced Practice Nurse

• Lynn Robbin, nurse practitioner, Franciscan St. Francis Health

• Sharon Sacs, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

• Lynn Shukitis, project engineer, Larson-Danielson Construction

• Melissa Sopher, detective, Michigan City Police Department

• Gordana Stefoski, first senior product manager, Sullair

• Faye Stokes, DDS, Michigan City Dental, PC

• Jen Rhine-Walker, detective, La Porte County Sheriff’s Department

• Diane Sperling, owner, Onesource Distribution Inc.

• Lisa Taylor, engineer, NiSource

• Bri Travis, manager of gas major projects, NiSource

• Lydia Walters, deputy prosecuting attorney, La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office

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