Spruced up to meet surgeons, plumbers, elephant trainers and optometrists, Pendleton High School students walked through the halls Thursday in stiff black suits and pressed blouses.

With 88 speakers packed in nearly every classroom, PHS career day was no small affair.

Each student rotated through six careers in the morning before attending college sessions or field trips to one of 10 businesses around town.

Some speakers — such as FBI special agent Alex White — were equally formal in slick suits. Others — like graphic designer Sofi Smith — slipped into their standard work attire of blue jeans.

The most popular speakers, agent White and Pendleton fire chief Gary Woodson, filled 80 seats in the auditorium with their adventure stories. But nurses and pharmacists also had full classrooms, fitting well with job trends.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the burgeoning careers of the coming decade will be in health care, social assistance and construction.

“We’re trying to connect their high school education with what they actually do in the real world,” said school board chair Debbie McBee, who organized the event.

Although Thursday’s speakers did represent the growing occupations, individual interests still dominated students’ choices.

Jeremy Cochrane, 16, listened to geoengineers and biologists because he likes science. Cochrane said fish biologist Jim Webster showed a long list of biology careers during his presentation.

“I thought, ‘Oh I could just go into biology,’ Cochrane told friends during lunch. “But your job description can get super narrow, depending on what you’re good at.”

Students had a chance to think practically and fantasize about their futures. Would they enjoy memorizing thousands of drug names? What’s it like to interview a famous person? How much schooling does an airplane pilot need?

They also posed the taboo question, “How much money do you make?”

Radiologist Jacob Cambier, for example, said his peers can easily make between $150,000 and $250,000, although that entails a near-flawless GPA and a decade of training. Teachers spoke of $30,000-$50,000 salaries.

Most had multiple reasons for choosing their careers. Woodson said he despises monotony. Nurse practitioner Lynn Lieuallen talked of her family-friendly work hours and love for her patients.

Others spoke of the satisfaction of a job well done.

“Pharmacy technicians have to be kind, they have to be nice, they have to be accurate,” Rite-Aid pharmacy technician Christy Young said. “Oh, and be prepared to run. In our pharmacy we run all day long.”

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Contact Natalie Wheeler at nwheeler@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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