Career options revealed to East Portland Middle School students

Look at how these Powellhurst-Gilbert students are getting a head start towards their future vocations …

Here at Ron Russell Middle School, eighth-grade students are exploring career paths that can guide their class choices in high school and college.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Going way beyond simply handing students a book about potential careers, instructors have given eighth-graders attending Ron Russell Middle School, in the David Douglas School District, a “Career/Future Planning” instruction unit.

In the second half of the school year, the students have studied classroom lessons about planning their future, high school preparation, and preparing for post-secondary education and training. Then, they filled out “Career Day” interest surveys before participating in the day-long event on held on April 8.

“We’ve been holding ‘Career Day’ because it gives our students the chance to learn about career options from professionals in our community,” said one of the school’s two counselors, Melissa Johnson, during the school-day event.

“Caitlin Ludlow, another counselor, and I bring in these community volunteers to share what a typical work day is like for them, how they need to be trained for the job, and tell some of their personal stories,” Johnson told East Portland News.

Ron Russell Middle School counselor Melissa Johnson is on her way to supervise another “Career Day” session.

“We tried to make sure that every single student would be able to attend talks related to their own top four career choices,” Johnson added. “Each session is about 25 minutes long, so these sessions run throughout the day.”

Professionals who volunteered their time included:

  • David Douglas School District Superintendent Don Grotting, who was also their Keynote Speaker;
  • Portland Police Bureau Homicide Detective,
  • KATU sportscaster and news producer,
  • Carpenter,
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse,
  • Interior Designer,
  • Portland Fire & Rescue Firefighter,
  • Interpreter,
  • Army officer,
  • Software Entrepreneur,
  • Mental Health Crisis Counselor, and
  • Constituent Representative.


Portland Fire & Rescue Station 14 Firefighter Jesse Altig speaks with a class.

“I like letting the kids know that they can have a career like mine,” said Portland Fire & Rescue Station 14 Firefighter Jesse Altig between sessions.

“I really enjoy my career and I like to tell about it,” Altig said. “In middle school, I didn’t have an idea about what I wanted to do. If someone would’ve come and told me about this, I would’ve probably signed up earlier in my life.

“It’s a job that changes, and is different every day we go to work” Altig added. “It’s never boring. I’m glad to tell about my fun job, where I get to help people who need it most.”

Sharing her passion for her job is Nora Edwards RN, a Salem Hospital Family Birth Center Labor and Delivery Nurse.

“I really love interacting with these kids,” said Registered Nurse Nora Edwards. “I like helping them get some ideas about what they want to do after high school.

“By exposing interested students to my work in the medical profession, some of them may take their math and science studies a bit more seriously in high school,” Edwards said, “and be ready to continue in college.”

KATU Sports Anchor Craig Birnbach and News Producer Orion Ludlow tell about their jobs.

During the session by KATU Sports Anchor Craig Birnbach and News Producer Orion Ludlow, the students proficiently interviewed the television professionals about their jobs and sports topics.

Birnbach and Ludlow regaled the students with stories about both news and sporting events they’d covered. They also told the kids to get a good education, and “keep learning about everything”.

Before they “graduate” from this outer East Portland middle school in June, counselors David Douglas High School will come to the school and help them choose their freshman year classes.

“Above all,” Johnson said, “it’s important that each of our students know, no matter their background or family situation, that they can do great things!”

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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