When preparing for a career stinks

When we say college and career readiness, I’m sure no one thought: sub-zero readiness.

Marsha Sisney, supervisor in the Rockford Public Schools Parent and Community Empowerment Department, came back from a field trip Friday for students in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Engineering Academy. The IDOT Academy is a project-based learning lab to provide realistic engineering experience, problem-solving and practical applications for high school students.  Friday’s trip took them to the wastewater treatment plant for the Rock River Water Reclamation District on Kishwaukee Street. Dan Pollard, Operations Lead Person with the reclamation district, was the tour guide.

Students inspect the water treatment plant from the outside.

Students inspect the water treatment plant from the outside.

I’m sure no one on the trip thought this was going to be a picnic. Most of us don’t want to think about where our waste goes, much less spend quality time with it (Friday was a day off school, no less). But, turns out that the field trip was mostly watching the process on the outside of the plant, where a lot of the action is. Temperatures began at -5 and never rose above the single digits, with subzero wind chills.

Things didn’t get much better as the group moved inside. The smell, Sisney said, nearly knocked you over. Then, the guide pointed to a room with noxious chemicals where a person can not survive even seconds without protective gear.

Now there’s a job that has to be a calling. You can stand up in front of a class forever, and not demonstrate the principle any better.

The IDOT Academy is just one of the ways we are helping students consider what careers look like. This one looked cold. Could it be worse than smelly and subzero? Check back at the plant in August.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. She can’t stop the toilet when it overflows, much less understand how to treat sewage.