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January 13. 2013 11:33PM

High schoolers get pep talk on career paths


Local photographer Alex Wilson talks shop with Souhegan High School students interested in becoming media-makers. (SIMON RIOS/Union Leader Correspondent)
AMHERST - The sophomores of Souhegan High School got to rub elbows Friday with local leaders in the fields that strike their fancy, with a series of panel discussions touching on a variety of professions.

The speakers were split between 10 panels, which focused on business, science, engineering, information technology, construction, education, healthcare, law, design, the arts, government and public safety. Of the 43 panelists, 14 are Souhegan alumni.

"The whole focus was to spread the panels out a bit and give some variety so it's not just the doctor, nurse, lawyer," said Maggie Paul, community service coordinator at Souhegan and one of the event organizers. "There's so many different niches."

The 10th panel dealt with arts and communications, presided over by five media professionals. One of the students, who had prepared questions prior to the event, expressed interest in a photojournalism career, saying he liked the idea of making a change in telling a story or statement in photos.

Rob Michaelson, an Amherst-based journalist on the panel, advised him to keep developing his craft and technique. "They say in writing and in anything, you just keep doing it over and over. And you look at the experts and say I want to be like that - eventually you're going to be like that."

Several of the students asked questions related to college. Michaelson said extracurricular activities were the best thing about journalism school, including work on the school newspaper and radio station.

"A lot of journalism and news is just getting out there and doing it," he said. "If you're out there and getting real feedback, that's where you learn the most."

Jill Kyle, marketing communications advisor at Dell, said her first design job was working on a mortician's catalog. She said a diverse array of skill sets will help as young people venture into the career world.

"The industry is changing so quickly, and you always have to be looking for the latest tools and technologies, and how to get your vision out there," Kyle said. "Go for what you really like doing."

Wedding photographer Alex Wilson said only 5 percent of college graduates end up getting a job in their field of study. He studied outdoor education with an art minor prior to getting a master's degree in education. He took just one photography course and later found himself teaching photography and eventually became a pro.

"That kind of has morphed everything that I've done," he said. "If you know that you like it, definitely keep studying it, but don't be discouraged if you're not really that sure with what you want to do. Explore all options."

Wilson said he charged $200 for his first wedding gig - money that paid for film. At his next gig he charged $400, "and now I charge $3,000."

Wilson said going to photography school allows students to learn more about the trade than he knows. But he added that going to art school can be more limiting than studying liberal arts in that it offers less exposure to different fields.

The event took place last year as part of the sophomore economics and career unit, though only one portion of the class participated. Successful the first time around, administrators decided to expand it across the grade this year.


srios@newstote.com