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AHS Career Day presents students interesting options

A Rogue Valley company that creates three-dimensional computer models helped discover why a luger died during a training run down an ultra-fast luge track at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Representatives from Medford-based Epic Scan showed a roomful of Ashland High School students interested in engineering careers a video the company created as part of the investigation into the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who slammed into a steel support.

"This is a 90 mph simulation of what the person is experiencing on the luge," said company Chief Executive Officer Carlos Velasquez, as students watched sharp turns and dangerous support struts whiz by as if they were lugers on the course.

The presentation was part of AHS's annual Career Day, which brought more than 80 professionals from around the region to the high school campus Wednesday.

Each student picked four career workshops to attend. They included health care, engineering, legal professions, law enforcement, theater and film, architecture, food and lodging, education, finance, real estate, biology, firefighting, sports and recreation, and many other fields. "The idea is to get you to imagine four possible futures for yourself and to learn about the path to get there," said AHS Principal Michelle Zundel.

Eugene urgent care doctor Holly Easton had the students' complete attention as she described work days that involved dealing with the aftermath of a chainsaw accident and searching frantically for a missing foot.

Easton said becoming a doctor is an expensive and long-term endeavor. She had 12 years of schooling after high school and amassed $200,000 in medical school debt.

But she showed the students they could earn $100,000 to $600,000 per year or more and would pay off that debt. She also described how they could work for public agencies or the military, or commit to practicing in rural areas and get their debt paid off.

"It's totally doable," Easton said.

Armed with a medical degree, Easton told the students they would always have jobs and could work anywhere in the world.

Junior Rory Dwyer said he had learned a lot in sessions devoted to mechanical engineering, computer science, marketing and working for the FBI.

Dwyer said he is thinking about a career in penetration testing, in which people are paid to try and hack into computer systems to test system security.

Senior Arianna Marshank said the nursing workshop fit her future career ambitions to be a nurse involved in humanitarian work, but she also was curious and signed up for sessions on the FBI, massage therapy and winemaking.

"Winemaking is such an interesting part of our culture in Southern Oregon," Marshank said. "I learned there are actually degrees in winemaking."

An FBI officer who visited with the students warned them against smoking marijuana, which is not allowed for agents, and encouraged them to plan their futures to avoid missing out on opportunities.

To gain skills and experience that would make him desirable to the FBI, he attended West Point and was an officer and pilot in the Army, he said.

Freshman Abby Mizera said she enjoyed learning about costume design, screenwriting and acting. She said the sessions were valuable to students, who usually need more information about potential careers.

"It's really helping them figure it out. They actually see people who are working in their area of interest," Mizera said.

Health teacher and adviser Allison French said many of the professionals reinforced the messages teachers try to pass on to students, such as the importance of having error-free resumes and being able to communicate well.

"It's invaluable. The kids are buzzing. They're on fire. They get to listen to someone besides their teachers," French said.

In an era of limited budget funding, Zundel said Career Day couldn't happen without the work of organizers Cassandra Toews and Margaret Brownlie, who volunteer for the school.

"I wish I'd had it when I was in school," Toews said. "When you are a teenager, there's so much going on. It's good to look inside the lives of these people with these careers and hear, 'Here's how I got there.' "

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.