Job Shadow Day Opens New Career Paths

Posted: October 9, 2013

On Oct. 18, 25 students from J. Frank Hillyard Middle School will visit the James Madison University Campus for Job Shadow Day. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
KaLeigh Bledsoe has seen first hand the difficulty of obtaining a steady, high quality job. With many of her relatives frequently bouncing from one job to the next, she knows how challenging life can be when one’s career is always unstable.

“I want to be different,” she said firmly. “I don’t want to be like that — I want to make my parents proud.”

As one of 25 eighth graders from J. Frank Hillyard Middle School selected to attend Job Shadow Day hosted by James Madison University, it appears she’s on the right path.

According to JFHMS guidance counselor Holli Janzen, the purpose of the event is to expose local students to the employment opportunities offered by the university.

Though some of the showcased careers require a college education, many others do not, yet all offer the opportunity for a steady, interesting job.

“If anybody says they’re employed by JMU, just that title itself is something to be proud of,” remarked Janzen.

According to Kellie Dovel — the recruitment specialist in charge of organizing the event — Job Shadow Day started in 2006 as a way to reach out to the community and promote JMU as an employer.

“A lot of times, people think of JMU and they just think of it as being a college,” she pointed out.

The day starts off with a complimentary breakfast at JMU’s Festival dining hall, during which Duke Dog often makes an appearance.

Students are then divided into groups, according to the departments they pre-selected to shadow.

“They tour the facilities, talk to the people who work there and get a behind the scenes tour,” explained Janzen.

Bledsoe, who says she likes “helping others,” will be shadowing nurses at the JMU health center.

Dovel says students at the health center will interact with a realistic, robotic mannequin complete with a heartbeat and blood.

“[Students will] take their blood pressure, listen to heart beats, checkup stuff,” said Dovel.  

Janzen, who’s chaperoned Job Shadow Day for the past few years, says nursing tends to be a popular choice among JFHMS students.

Though she personally found the mannequins to be “kinda creepy,” she expects Bledsoe will enjoy the “hands on” opportunity to work with a simulated patient. In addition to nursing, Janzen says the landscaping and athletic departments are also a hit with their students.

“A lot of my boys have little summer jobs mowing lawns,” she explained.

“It takes them by surprise [to learn] that it can be bigger than just mowing a lawn.”

She recalls how excited one football-loving student was upon discovering he could be part of the game day operations at JMU, by working in a behind the scenes position such as security or scheduling.

Janzen enjoys watching students get excited about their newly discovered career paths, and believes the event truly helps the young teens “set realistic goals” that “coordinate with their passions.”

“[Seeing them] start working towards those goals is the most beautiful part of it for me.”

Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or

NDN Video News