Edina students interested in careers in communications would do well to sign up for the Communications Explorers Post 3411. Part of a long-running national program, the organization is a hands-on, site-based career education resource for kids high school through age 20. “We connect our youth with a local business, government agency or municipality in their specific career field so students can see what these jobs consist of on a regular basis,” says Exploring district director Melinda Inman.
The Edina Communications Explorers Post hosts monthly meetings featuring lectures, field trips and the opportunity for the explorers to sign up for different jobs they’d like to observe. Recent learning opportunities included article writing, magazine photography, set design for public access television and manning the reception desk of a communications IT department. The City of Edina offers its internships in the communications and marketing department every spring, summer and fall, which, according to the post’s website, “provide a unique opportunity to help students hone their skills through the professional development of writing, website maintenance, graphic design, cable television support and effective government communication with residents.”
Jennifer Bennerotte, the city of Edina’s communications and technology services director, was one of the founders of the Communications Explorers Post. The Northern Star Council asked her to sponsor the post three years ago. “We were interested in growing our volunteer corps, so we thought it would be a good fit,” Bennerotte says. “The post gives students who are interested in a career in communications a firsthand look at the industry—whether it be writing, photography, video production, audio engineering or even acting—it’s an opportunity to meet with other kids who are also interested in those careers as well as to hear from the people who work in the industry. It helps them make early career decisions.”
The program also offers rich resources and opportunities for research. Students who are interested in writing, advertising sales or videotaping have access to extensive information in each area. The Communications Explorers have put together their own informational video segments in the past, including a recruitment tape that has won several local awards.
Post 3411 hosts an awards banquet every spring. During its first year, the Communications Explorers won the marketing award and the award for the Post of the Year. There are explorer posts in many other fields, including engineering, information technology, fire, health care, law enforcement, finance, planning and human resources. The post participants learn lifelong skills such as organization, leadership and teamwork. “Being an explorer is a great confidence builder,” Inman says. “Students are thrust into a learning experience that pushes them out of their comfort zone almost immediately. But the challenge also allows them to discover their own hidden talents.” In addition, the explorers have access to excellent college scholarships.
The great benefit to the local companies, organizations, municipalities and agencies that work with the Explorers is that they can exert a direct influence on the training and education of the future workforce and can identify those students whom they want to keep in touch with for possible employment. “Many fire and police departments use Explorer posts as feeder programs,” Inman says. “Almost all volunteer firefighters in Minnesota were Explorers at one time.”
If an Explorer decides not to pursue the post’s career, they can still stay with the post. “It’s about developing young people and turning them into contributing members of society and part of the community,” Inman says. Explorers support their neighborhoods with community service. Most posts encourage a minimum number of work hours on such tasks as picking up highway trash or helping with crowd control and parking at local events.
The explorers are typically recruited through student career interest surveys, newspaper advertisements, community flyers or open house evenings. “We work at developing relationships with career counselors in schools,” Inman says. “But one of the best recruiting methods is peer-to-peer word of mouth and from high school career counselors. Some students are very persistent about making their friends join!”
The most important thing about the Communications Explorers Post is that it’s fun. “We want it to be fun for kids, not just about providing technical information. Explorers build skills and strong mentorship relationships but also lifelong friendships,” Inman says. “In fact, many former Explorers work with the program as adults, because they want to give back!”
Communications Explorers Post 3411 typically meets the last Wednesday of the month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Meetings feature speakers and field trips. Explorers have opportunities for hands-on activities at other times of the month. For more information or to register, call 952.826.0359.