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Most of the students who came to Stars and Stripes reporter Allison Batdorff's second session of the Nile C. Kinnick High School Career Day were there by default because they forgot to turn in their forms. They were very good sports, however.

Most of the students who came to Stars and Stripes reporter Allison Batdorff's second session of the Nile C. Kinnick High School Career Day were there by default because they forgot to turn in their forms. They were very good sports, however. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — “What if nobody shows up?” I fretted Monday, pacing the empty classroom. “Does that mean my job is boring?”

Slowly, my captives came filtering in. It was Career Day Monday, and for the next 50 minutes these Nile C. Kinnick high school students would hear how I earn my paycheck.

Their bland looks — equal parts boredom and vague interest — brought me back to my own high school Career Days. As a student, I’d scan my Career Day catalogue, selecting the speakers with the most astonishing jobs. Ice diver. Circus performer. Jet pilot.

Of course, those sessions were always filled, leaving me talking with titans of the slightly less glamorous industries. Insurance. Banking. Sales.

Well, I wasn’t about to be one of those under-caffeinated, stodgy Career Day types. I figured my profession — journalist — was darn near glitzy. There are even movies about it. Those high school cubbies would be beating the classroom door down … or so I figured.

Fate had another plan. Of the six students who came to my second group, only one had actually chosen my session. The rest were “sent” there. They forgot to turn in their forms. Life came full circle as I realized that I was the “leftovers” session.

Apparently, I was up against some pretty stiff competition. Oceanographer. Helicopter pilot. Explosive demolition dogs.

Career practicum teacher Annita Carrell lined up more than 70 speakers from fields ranging from nuclear mechanics to acting to talk to Kinnick’s estimated 500 students. People love to talk about their jobs, Carrell said.

“I was amazed at how many people volunteered,” Carrell said. “Even the ones who hadn’t had career days when they were students wanted to participate and talk about what they do.”

I wonder if everyone — like me — believes their job is absolutely fascinating to others. But the students cast the deciding votes Monday.

The data wasn’t in yet, but students buzzed most about the sessions on veterinary medicine, military dogs, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and midwifery, Carrell said.

“They were pretty hyped over what they learned,” Carrell said.

Students are always going to pack the more exciting professions, she told me. But even though my session wasn’t a big draw, it was still valuable, she said.

“Everyone learns something, even if it’s that the helicopter pilots use algebra every day,” Carrell said. “This is just to provide some food for thought and let the students think of some possibilities.”

Still, the students made me feel pretty good. Senior Tyler Will said the day wasn’t about finding the career of your dreams as much as it’s about weighing different options.

“I’m not shopping as much as comparing,” Will said.

Sophomore Jazmin Coleman liked the dose of reality.

“I think Career Day is really valuable,” Coleman said. “A lot of careers you hear about only through movies — this way we get to meet people who are living that life.”

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