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Hillsboro's Homegrown Talent: Students Discover Their Potential at Youth Invasion
Hillsboro’s young people — our “homegrown talent” — have a unique opportunity to explore careers and gain professional experience through the City’s youth development programs. With the backing of the community and support from the City Council, students and recent graduates develop their skills in preparation for college and future jobs. City programs help tomorrow’s civic leaders envision living in Hillsboro after high school and college, lending their talents to lead our city into the future.
Every year in late October, more than 250 high school students descend on the Hillsboro Civic Center to learn about careers in public service — and about themselves.
Together with the Hillsboro School District and the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the City of Hillsboro introduces students to nearly two dozen career options in local government. Five high schools, including Century, Glencoe, Hillsboro, Liberty and Miller Education Center, participate in the day of fun and education.
Launched in 2013, the event features presenters from every City of Hillsboro department who share their job experiences and provide an overview of what it’s like to work in public service. Career exploration sessions cover police, fire, information services, public works, libraries, planning, finance and more.
Interactive presentations, often with intriguing props, give students a chance to meet and learn from employees. The interactions can help kids examine their own career possibilities and build a network.
Recently, the day began with a gathering in the auditorium, where City Manager Michael Brown welcomed students to Civic Center. “Open your mind to potential careers in public service,” he encouraged. “Have fun, and be thoughtful. Engage with staff and learn as much as you can today through active participation.”
Pursuing a career in government, starting at home
The message resonated with Sophia Bailey, a senior at Liberty High School. She’s on the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), whose members helped coordinate and direct students toward career-information sessions.
Passionate about her own experiences in public service, Sophia was eager to help lead Youth Invasion, even kicking off the event with an introduction at the morning assembly. “I felt I could help be that guide for upcoming students and learn more about city government,” she said. “If you work hard, any career or dream you have is possible.”
Previously, on a YAC-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., Sophia discovered her career path in government and public policy.
“I realized my whole life has been surrounded by political issues,” she said. “When I was younger, I read the paper with my grandma. Government was always a topic of conversation.”
Attending Youth Invasion two years in a row, plus other career-related programs for Hillsboro students, gave Sophia a perspective on her own career potential in government.
“This is a realistic job if I work hard,” she said. “I can actually make this happen.” After an upcoming internship in state Senator Chuck Riley’s office, she’ll pursue a degree in political science and then go to law school.
Youth Invasion holds opportunities for everyone
Other students are more interested in job training than college. Youth Invasion showcases career options for students who choose to work after high school.
“Youth Invasion shows so many other right pathways you can take,” Sophia said. “It’s evident in all the different types of jobs presented. They prove you don’t have to go to college to have a job you’re happy with or to be successful.”
As a freshman, Kelsey Nielsen hadn’t explored career options — or even local government — until her Glencoe High School AVID class attended Youth Invasion. One Hillsboro Police Department session at Youth Invasion focused on careers in criminal investigation. The detective’s explanation of her job piqued Kelsey’s interest enough to make her introduce herself after the presentation.
Detective Michelle Gay asked Kelsey to email her contact information that night. Kelsey aimed for her future and did just that.
Since then, she has talked with the Hillsboro Police Department Volunteer Coordinator about how she can get involved in public service right away. “Since I’m too young for internships,” Kelsey said. “[I learned] what I could do right now to help my community, like volunteering at libraries and parks.”
Beyond introducing career options and teaching her about City departments, Youth Invasion triggered self-discovery for Kelsey. It’s important that her future career will keep her curious.
She’s drawn to career options that expose her to new experiences and knowledge. “It’s kind of like trying new foods,” Kelsey said. “I’m open to trying new things. When you really get engaged and put forth attention and effort, you can learn something new.”
A special experience for employees as well
Sharing a real-life view of their work with Hillsboro’s students is gratifying for City employees, too.
“Often times, we can get embedded in our day-to-day work and lose sight of how we make a difference,” said Kristi Wilson, Youth Development Coordinator and leader of the team that organizes the annual event. “This event is an opportunity for us to surround ourselves with new energy, show off what we do and influence young people in a positive way. And who knows — maybe we helped a few students find their dream jobs!”
Kristi collaborates with School to Career program managers at the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, who provide administrative support throughout the process and hands-on coordination at the event. Hillsboro School District (HSD) counselors identify students who are likely to benefit from Youth Invasion and encourage them to participate.
“The City is a big supporter of the School District’s College and Career Pathways program,” Kristi said. “Youth Invasion is a creative venue to step outside of the classroom and into careers in local government. Students can engage with City staff and get excited about the possibility of pursuing a career in public service.”
The partnerships are critical to the event’s success. Youth Invasion is one way the City, the Chamber and HSD staff provide support for students as they imagine who they could become.
“You are the future of Hillsboro,” said Brooke Nova, Coordinator of Career and College Pathways for the School District, at the Youth Invasion kickoff assembly. “You are going to make the difference in our community. We believe in you and that’s why we have these kinds of events.”