Career Fair Opens Students’ Eyes to Many Different Jobs

Submitted by Denair High School:

Dan Desomma started at the Turlock Irrigation District in 1996 as a temporary worker. A few months later, he was hired full time in the maintenance department. Eventually, he worked his way into the power department, where he has spent the last 18 years as a troubleshooter. When the power goes out, he’s the guy who gets the call.

Desomma loves his job, loves helping people and loves working in the community in which he grew up. He has only a high school education and a couple of years of college, but years of specialized training that qualifies him for a career that pays him almost $60 an hour.

Friday, Denair High School’s third annual Career Fair Desomma and three other TID linemen shared their insight about their jobs, the equipment they use and the company they worked for. They were among more than two dozen presenters ranging from educators to bankers, military and law enforcement, medical assistants and dental hygienists, a local mayor, a funeral director, a nail salon employee, a civil engineer and various business executives.

All converged on the Denair campus to give students a chance not only to hear about different careers, but to ask questions about the education, training, preparation and other skills that it takes to do them. All seventh- through 12th-graders signed up in advance for three 30-minute sessions.

“About 50 percent of our graduates go straight into the workforce after graduation, so it’s important that we expose them to many different kind of career opportunities,” said Principal Kara Backman.

The TID linemen were a popular choice for many young men. While most sessions were inside classrooms, the TID crew was outside in the quad, where students could send the bucket trucks, handle some of the equipment and even try on the protective clothing that guards against electrical shock.

“TID is a great place to work,” said lineman Adam Hope. “It’s provided a good living for my family and kids. There are a lot of different career paths there.”

Desomma showed off a pair of heavy leather gloves that can withstand up to 17,000 volts – “I never work without them” – as well as a hot line pole and clamp he uses on live wires and the gear he uses to climb up and down power poles. He also talked passionately about the satisfaction he gets from helping to restore power when it’s interrupted, whether because of a storm or a car hitting a power pole.

He described his job as “exciting but scary at the same time. I absolutely love it.”

Marina Mejia, a branch manager for BBVA bank in Modesto, told students in her sessions about the importance of helping families with their financial needs – from opening their first checking and savings accounts to helping them buy cars and homes as well as saving for college educations and retirement.

“What’s really great about being a banker is we get to help your parents in so many different ways,” she said. “We can help at every stage of life.”

Mejia said being a teller often is the entry level way into banking – jobs that many college students can do while going to school. Many other banking careers require four-year degrees in business, accounting, finance or even human resources, she said.

Mejia also said one of the most rewarding things she gets to do is work with teens and young adults on financial literacy – opening accounts, dealing responsibly with credit, understanding how to budget, and knowing the difference between a “need and a want.”

In the next classroom, Denair Unified speech therapist Whitney Zumstein talked about her career and the joy she gets from enabling children from elementary age through high school overcome various speech difficulties.

Zumstein is in her seventh year overall and fourth in Denair. She has undergraduate and master’s degrees from Fresno State University in communications disorders as well as a state license and industry certification.

She told students that speech pathologists or speech pathology aides are in high demand.

“I checked the other night and there are 786 jobs alone being advertised right now in California school districts,” Zumstein said.

She works with 45 students in Denair, typically once or twice a week for 30 minutes one-on-one or in small groups.

“It’s a fun job and it’s rewarding to see children make progress,” Zumstein said.

One student in Friday’s session was Denair High junior Kimberly Vega, who worked with Zumstein when she was an eighth-grader. Inspired by her own experience and listening to Zumstein’s presentation, Vega said she is considering becoming a speech therapist or aide.

“That’s pretty neat to hear,” Zumstein said.

Friday’s Career Fair began with a motivation talk for all students. It also followed a College Night on Thursday in which hundreds of Denair students were joined by others from all around Stanislaus County at an event in the gym featuring more than 30 colleges, universities and vocational training institutions.

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