2019 Growing Our Own
The Fort St. John team held their fourth annual Growing Our Own event on February 27, 2019. Kimberly Zackodnik originally came up with the idea of a ‘speed career-mentoring’ opportunity for students in 2016. The format is something like ‘speed dating’, where a student has a time-limited chat with a mentor to get an impression of what it might be like to pursue a particular profession or career path.
Kimberly’s vision was to increase awareness of the range of professional possibilities available in Fort St. John. While many North Peace Secondary School students attend higher education elsewhere (just as Kimberly did), she wanted them to know they can come back to experience a solid career path in their home town.
With the help of Edward Stanford, Jaime Adam, Katrin Saxty and Chad Carlstrom, Kimberly had the support she needed to jump-start the Growing Our Own event series as a Foundation-sponsored initiative.
“This year, we had 25 different mentors and 30 students,” says Kimberly. “We tried to make sure there were a variety of mentors with different backgrounds, rather than have too many in one area of practice.”
Urban Systems’ Event Coordinator, Ila Sutherland, has been assisting with the Growing Our Own event for the past three years.
“It has been a pleasure to be a part of this event,” says Ila. “Everyone appreciates the opportunity it provides. Mentors are happy to share information about their respective professions, and are grateful to have the setting in which to do so. Most of our mentors are ‘repeaters’; if a mentor can’t attend due to their schedule, they ask to be contacted for the next year. And the students are always asking mentors good questions. They are genuinely engaged in the process.”
Urban Systems’ mentors included Community Consultant, Julianne Kucheran, and Engineer in Training, Emma Greendale. Emma also hand-painted artwork for all of the mentor gifts.
“I asked her to look after it,” says Kimberly, who facilitates the event each year as MC. “Emma did such a great job with the potted plants last year, and I found out two weeks before this year’s event that she was hand-painting them all!”
Similar to previous years, the students were able to read mentors’ bios in advance. They selected four mentors they wanted to sit down with, and received a schedule when they arrived at the venue, The Lido Theatre, on event day.
“We have a great partner in The Lido Theatre and their team,” says Ila. “They have a wonderful venue that works very well for this event, and they work very well with us to ensure that everything goes smoothly.”
Improvements were made this year based on past feedback, such as transitioning between mentors. Some students saw mentors they didn’t necessarily select, yet this actually opened up new opportunities for them. Kimberly found that students were “more engaged in a variety of areas, rather than having a set idea of what they wanted to do”. This was particularly exciting for her to witness.
“While we had less students this year, the ones that were there were very engaged and asked a wide range of tough questions,” says Kimberly.
As an added bonus, lunch was provided by a local catering company called Cool Beans.
“The intention of providing lunch is to give students an opportunity to continue networking,” says Kimberly. “Most of the time, the students become shy and group together. However, this year, several students approached mentors during lunch, which I thought was brave and very encouraging to see from high school students!”
Kimberly is committed to organizing the Growing Our Own event again in 2020.
“We’ve been given some good ideas for next year, including potentially incorporating short videos of people with far out and unheard of careers.”
This is something that the students will undoubtedly look forward to with anticipation!
“I am grateful to be a part of this event and I look forward to many more years of continued success with Growing Our Own,” adds Ila.