Students learn about 'incredible' river jobsView Source
ALTON – Like many people, the high school students attending a jobs program at the National Great Rivers Museum on Wednesday morning think about the Mississippi River as something they need to cross, rather than the jobs it provides.
The program, “Who Works the Rivers,” hosted by RiverWorks Discovery, brings in representatives of government and industry that provide jobs and services related to the river, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that runs the lock and dam system to the barge operators that take advantage of that.
“We are trying to expose as many students to careers they can transition to,” said Joe Michalski, a co-op teacher at Alton High School.
He said it gives them options and expands their knowledge about potential careers.
“It’s right in our backyard, and it has a host of so many incredible jobs,” he said.
For one of his students, Wednesday's program was a chance to spend some time with his father.
Elvis Cargill is a senior operator with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and works at the Mel Price Lock and Dam. His son, AHS senior Everette Cargill, was among the students participating in the program and touring the lock and dam.
“I love it, and he loves it,” the elder Cargill said. “He’s been here before.”
Cargill said he thinks the program is important for students.
“It gives them options,” he said. “It gives them vision and different opportunities.”
Cargill added he hopes his son follows in his footsteps, something Everette Cargill said he could do.
“It’s amazing; my peers can come see,” he said of the lock and dam.
He added he also enjoyed seeing his father at work.
Another member of the group, senior Tyler Cox, said he enjoyed being on the river.
“The No. 1 thing I love to do is go fishing with the family,” he said, adding he has thought about working on the river. “I really think it’s interesting and I love being on the water.”
Keviana Usher, an AHS junior, said it was beautiful, but she wasn’t sure about working on a dam. And if she did, it would not be on the top of the structure.
“I don’t like heights that much,” she said. “I like it down low.”
In addition to the dam tours, there were multiple stations where representatives of different types of employment talked about what they did. Those ranged from biologists talking about mussels found in the river to lock and dam maintenance people showing off some of the specialized tools they used.
Some of the displays were more hands on. Capt. Matthew Stamps, a tugboat operator with SCF/Lewis and Clark Marine, was demonstrating and allowing students to practice tying up barges using heavy ropes.
“I knew the kids were going to enjoy it because it’s hands on and they get to see what they’re made of,” he said. “They get wore out; it’s a pretty physical job, but it’s very fulfilling.”
Stamps said the program shows the students there are things out there they can do.
“You travel up and down the River Road, but you never really think that’s a job,” he said. “It’s something you can grow at and be good at, and make some good money.”
Students came from both sides of the river to participate.
“I’m hoping that two or three or four of these guys will be interested in the maritime operations on the river,” said Sgt. Lorenzo Harris, who was in charge of a group of Junior ROTC students from Vashon High School. “We’ve been doing it quite a while, and each and every time the kids actually talk about it and engage other kids.
For more information about RiverWorks Discovery and Who Works the Rivers, visit www.riverworksdiscovery.org..