From a youth’s perspective, the Butte High School career fair has it going on.

Alex Anderson, a junior, went into the industry-packed event Wednesday knowing she wants to become a pharmacist, even though the fair is for students of all ages and ambitions.

“It gives help to people who don’t know what they want to do,” said Anderson as underclassmen swelled around her, taking in dozens of industry tables in the school gym.

She was one of about 600 students released from class throughout the morning to learn about entry-level jobs and post-secondary training opportunities.

“I learned that with some careers, you can have multiple opportunities,” said Anderson. She plans to play to her strengths and major in chemistry or biology at Montana Tech before applying for pharmacy school elsewhere.

She hung out at the Tech and the Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center in keeping with her goals.

But Anderson is an exception. Few high school students know exactly what they want to do after graduation. As Butte High anatomy teacher Amber Walter can attest, many of her students attended the fair to learn basic business professional strategies.

“I really want them to practice their interpersonal communication skills,” said Walter. “We’re really lacking in that area. They’re practicing looking a person in the eye and shaking hands — learning those soft skills.”

Additions to the sixth annual fair include a dress code for student attendees, said Judy Bryant, head of the Butte High career and technical ed department, family consumer science teacher and event organizer.

“We made a few changes this year to encourage students to dress and behave appropriately, such as no pajama pants or sweats,” said Bryant, adding that students seemed more engaged than ever.

Health science, industrial technology, family/consumer sciences and business leaders were on hand to answer questions.

Cooper Fisher, 22, marketing director for Butte Local Development Corp., a 2013 Butte High graduate and Tech student, stressed to inquiring students that Butte is an inclusive place.

“We’re trying to change the dialogue,” he said. “We want to see everybody succeed.”

BLDC, the primary economic development organization for Butte-Silver Bow County, offers services to everyone, including high school entrepreneurs, said Fisher. BLDC recruits businesses, grows companies, builds partnerships and promotes job creation.

“When you have kids who want to be entrepreneurs, start something new, you have to nurture that,” Fisher added. “That’s what we want to see — that ties right into the Butte spirit.”

Fisher and Anderson are prime examples of youths seeking guidance such as the job fair within their own community.

“I chose to get involved — I was looking for opportunities,” said Fisher. He learned personal skills while performing in local theater, plus he picked up vital experience working at the BSB Chamber of Commerce.

Anderson, too, is a busy bee while envisioning life after high school. Besides working for a manufactured home dealership, she participates in speech and debate, Teens in Partnership and HOSA Future Health Care Professionals.

“She’s a very driven kid,” said her mother, Denise Anderson, working a credit union information table. “We’re pretty lucky.”

Confident, Anderson already knows how she will approach college: take basic core classes like math and English at Highlands College — the southern campus of Montana Tech — before transferring to take chemistry, biology or other pre-pharmacy requirements.

Two-year colleges like Highlands offer required core classes at less cost than four-year colleges. Plus, students can save money by living at home the first few years of college.

“Tech is hands-on and I like it better that way,” Anderson added. “It’s a better transition from Butte High to Tech.”

It takes eight years to earn a doctorate in pharmacy, but she seems undaunted.

“It’s a difficult course, but I’m excited to go into it,” said Anderson.

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Education Reporter who also covers features at The Montana Standard, I am a Cascade-Ulm-Great Falls native. Originally a sports writer, I wrote for the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune. I freelanced for The Seattle Times and other NW publications.

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