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Blue Earth group gets all REV’ed up

By Staff | Feb 9, 2020

Faribault County Register graphic designer Pam True, left, tells a group of Blue Earth Area High School students all about the work which is done at the Register. Besides the production of the weekly newspaper, it is also designing other advertisements, booklets, magazines, posters, special sections and lots more.

“What are you going to be?”

That is what Blue Earth’s Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) committee wants to know about Blue Earth Area students.

It’s not about where they may be going, or whether these students are attending college or trade school after high school, but what do they want to be?

Over 150 Blue Earth Area ninth and 10th grade students participated in a first for the city of Blue Earth last Tuesday, Feb. 4, Business Tour Day.

This tour day involved over 30 area businesses, a multitude of volunteers, and a plethora of hope for the city’s future.

Blue Earth’s REV program, with the help of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, created a survey this past fall to ask area students what they want to be after high school and to highlight that perhaps their career goals are within reach, right here, in Blue Earth.

Results from that survey showed that more than 40 percent of ninth and 10th grade students said they intend to move away from the area while less than 10 percent want to stay part of the local workforce. The remaining 50 percent of students said they were still undecided as to what their future might hold.

After the survey results were analyzed, a number of businesses visited the BEA High School to discuss, over lunch, the opportunities they have for high school graduates and to field any questions students had about specific career fields including law enforcement, engineering, marketing, broadcasting, finance, small business ownership, and others.

Mary Kennedy, economic development specialist with CEDA?(Community and Economic Development Associates), says the survey’s results, along with REV’s Lunch and Learn feedback, created a spark in the REV committee to make stronger connections with current students and show them opportunities abound, locally.

“The survey results were pretty eye-opening,” says Kennedy. “The goal of this project is to connect students with local employers and community stakeholders in an effort to expose them to job and career options, educational paths beyond high school, and display community support. I think the Business Tour Day went even better than we could have imagined. Hours of planning and organizing went into this event to make it a great experience for both students and business participants.”

Kennedy says without the help of so many key players, this event simply would not have come together.

“Annie Leibel was absolutely instrumental in creating schedules, Emily Lang with the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce was our go-to for catering, donations, and transportation, and of course Mandy Fletcher and Greg Ewing were our school contacts who helped in so many ways,” said Kennedy. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of REV?to be working so hard to establish this platform.”

“I think this is one way we can make a real impact in the lives of the future business owners and leaders of Faribault County,” said CEDA’s community and business development specialist Annie Leibel. “I am so happy we were able to get participation from across the school district for this event.”

Each of the BEA ninth and 10th graders chose five area businesses that piqued their interest and were given the opportunity to tour facilities in those career areas.

“It was a great day for our school district,” says Lissia Laehn, owner of Heartland Embroidery and Heartland Retreat & Rental Hall in Elmore and was one of the business owners highlighted on the tour. “Students were behind the scenes, asking questions, engaging, getting job applications. That’s what it’s all about: showing these students the opportunities right in our area. Some students may need further education for their chosen profession, while some can transition straight from school to a career. I think it was a great day and the students enjoyed their tours.”

“I thought the tour was extremely successful,” says Blue Earth Chamber executive director Emily Lange. “Some of the students in my group commented that they learned about jobs that they did not know existed in Blue Earth, while others were unaware that there were jobs available to them that they could do in Blue Earth. The students really seemed to enjoy the tours.”

“We are incredibly lucky to have such knowledgeable experts assisting us with economic development,” says BEA superintendent Mandy Fletcher. “It is events and days like these that provide our students with so much knowledge and experience that you cannot always teach within the classroom walls. As such, we are grateful to all of our area businesses for opening their doors, welcoming our students, and building necessary connections with our future generations. We are proud of the opportunities that our area has to offer and we are elated that our students were able to experience this first-hand.”

From nursing to childcare, administration to information technology, and everything in between, Blue Earth’s REV team has put forth palpable effort to show local students there is room to grow, right here where the earth is so rich, the city grows.