On Thursday Feb. 6, the Colo-Nesco Schools hosted their first College and Career Fair. The evening event was held in the high school gymnasium in Colo. Both Jessica Radmaker and Kandice Roethler, the K-12 school counselor and K-12 talented and gifted teacher respectively, worked hard to bring in over 15 colleges and 40 businesses. They worked closely with Angela Davidson and Drew Kamp with the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. Both Davidson and Kamp work with the Story County Community Outreach program. The pairing between the Chamber of Commerce and the school made it possible for the event to bring in large businesses in the county.

A wide variety of colleges, such as Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, participated, as well as smaller community colleges, including Des Moines Area Community College and Marshalltown Community College. Businesses who participated included Barilla America, USDA, Proliant Health and Biologicals, Argee Transport and Nikkel and Associate, Inc., amongst others. The event wasn’t just limited to the Colo-Nesco Schools, but opened up to all area schools in Story and Marshall counties.

The event provided junior high and high school students with an opportunity to speak to business representatives in and around Story County. With the introduction and emphasis on the Iowa Core, an awareness of career and college readiness has been stressed. This event helped students to really explore different careers and the skill sets needed to be successful in life beyond schooling. The students were encouraged to ask questions of the businesses present, as well as explore the connections between college and careers. Many of the businesses that participated in the fair offered the students information on how they provide the training necessary for new employees to hold the correct certifications.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Verlengia had this comment to offer after the close of the event. "I have received numerous, positive comments from parents and students about how well the event was organized, the quantity and quality of the groups and schools that were represented and how well is was attended. This was an outstanding opportunity for our students and one that we will look forward to repeating in the years to come."

The staff at the school got behind the event, offering students opportunities for extra credit if they attended and some incorporated the fair into their daily classroom work. In addition to all of this, students also got to try out different pieces of equipment they could possibly use with different college programs. For example, Iowa Central brought a virtual welding machine that allowed the students at the fair to experience the difficulty in welding. Some of the businesses even provided the same experiences. Minerva Valley Companies out of Zearing allowed the students to experience working with fiber-optic cables often used in their workplace.

The event ran smoothly, and hopefully will become the first of an annual event every spring. Wonderful and encouraging comments were heard all evening from students, families, school staff members and participating businesses. Nikki Ruffcorn, a parent of two children in the district and business representative, said, "USDA -Veterinary Services participates in many fairs such as this one, and I feel you did a remarkable job organizing this event. I encourage you to make this a tradition at Colo-Nesco, as the learning opportunities and networking available to the students last night was invaluable. The combination of exceptional staff that were present, parents/students wanting to be informed, and community members working booths and sharing information with the students made this event exceptional."

It is a nice addition to parent-teacher conferences and allows students to explore their future opportunities with their families present. Verlengia has had a dream of such event occurring on school grounds and was pleased to see it occur; hopefully, it will become an annual event.