Connecting with the Community

Highlighting the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) Next Career Pathways, this series follows the success individual schools and communities have found with the innovative program. In Floodwood, Industrial Arts Teacher Dave Rohde, 11th grader Carter Grant, and Director of Ambulance Services Jenni Zahurones shared their experiences working with the program.

Rohde has taught at Floodwood Schools for over a decade and is a pastor at the Floodwood Assembly of God Church. He has also worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for the Floodwood Ambulance Service since 2010.

Providing opportunities for his students to learn as much as possible about careers available to them is a key focus in Rohde’s teaching.

“That’s one thing I try to do in the shop is make sure I can show the kids as many different trades as I can so they can at least get a glimpse of what it would be like and maybe spark some interest,” said Rohde.

Rohde’s classes often work on projects that are used in their communities. Past projects have included building cabinets for the city hall, a donation box for the police department, deer stands, a sauna, and a stairway entrance for an elderly couple in town.

Rohde says students feel more invested in these projects since they know it will be out in their community.

The classes Rohde teaches fall under the Construction and Manufacturing Pathways. His classes have gone on tours of L&M Radiator and Swan Machine; 218 Trades have come to the school to speak with his students; and he will be taking students to a trades career convention at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) this May.

Past students have also participated in work-based learning opportunities which allow them to earn school credit. Rohde hopes to offer more of these opportunities in the future, but needs more businesses to coordinate with.

“The hard thing we have with Floodwood with Career Pathways is having more of those opportunities where our kids can work,” Rohde commented.

Rohde noted that having Zahurones come to the school to talk about the ambulance service was a success and he hopes more businesses would approach the school with opportunities.

“That’s where I’d like to see more of the businesses get on board with Career Pathways,” Rohde said.

Grant started his EMR classes in November 2021 after hearing about the program from Zahurones when she spoke at Floodwood School. Now he is a fully-trained EMR with the goal of continuing down this career path in the future.

“I love the ambulance,” said Grant. “It puts a whole new perspective on what I want to do and I think I’m going to pursue—become an EMT and then a paramedic. It’s fun. I like the adrenaline rush.”

Zahurones commented that the young people she works with, such as Grant, have great energy, are willing to learn and need to have very high levels of integrity. Zahurones grew up in the healthcare field and started working in home care at the age of 16. She worked with individuals with spinal injuries for 15 years and then moved into a staffing position coordinating moving people into nursing homes.

Zahurones started the process of becoming an EMT when she was 19 years old.

“What I realized is that even with my healthcare background of working with people one-on-one with pretty severe injuries, it wasn’t enough,” Zahurones commented.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to complete the training after needing a sinus surgery. Years passed, she and her husband had three children, and eventually moved to Floodwood. She shared that she received a postcard in the mail one day saying there would be free training for the ambulance service in Floodwood and she knew her opportunity was there. She has now been a part of the ambulance service for six years.

One of Zahurones’s first goals as director of ambulance services was to see how she could better the service.

“One of the things that I found in a lot of my interactions was utilization of the younger individuals, or the high school students,” said Zahurones. “There are certain areas that do that better and integrate them better and for a lot of the bigger areas, it just gets missed.”

Floodwood is one of the few places in the state which has a junior program for high school students to be on the ambulance service team. There have been three students in Floodwood who have joined the ambulance service as EMRs, including Zahurones’s daughter who was the first to join the program.

“There’s just such a strong need from the ambulance service and there is such an opportunity for them to be able to invest and learn so many skills,” Zahurones said.

She shared that while there are limitations on the high school students, they are seen as a full team member.

“We use them like any other member,” Zahurones stated. “When there is a situation that seems inappropriate for a younger member then we just pull them back. Otherwise they are a full running crew member.”

Zahurones mentioned that working with the ambulance is a great opportunity to gain life skills, and would be an excellent add-on for anyone wanting to go into the healthcare field.

“It’s a skill you can jump into, get free training, participate in your community, give back to your community, and skills that you’ll keep forever,” she noted. “It’s a pretty valuable opportunity for them.”

Zahurones hopes to have more students join the team in the future and that they can expand the hours students can be on-call for the ambulance services. She also mentioned that although the ambulance service is doing well, they could always use more volunteers.

For students considering their future careers, having the opportunity to learn from adults outside of school through opportunities such as internships, job shadows, facility tours, employment, and more, is key. And while much of the Career Pathways program is based directly in the schools through academics, the program would not be complete without its connections to the communities it is in.