The typical “career day” at school might be a student bringing dad or mom into a single classroom and having them talk for a few minutes about their job. That wasn’t the approach Stillwater Middle School took Tuesday, when dozens of people used multiple sessions to help students understand the wide-ranging occupations available to them.

The SMS Career Day was part of a new ICAP pilot program, and had nothing like it had been attempted at Stillwater Public Schools. ICAP stands for Individual Career Academic Plan, and its goal is to give students a much more informed vision to fulfill the age-old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

According to the Oklahoma Department of Education, “The ICAP process and related products can provide clear benefits to both students and schools if the district supports ICAP efforts in a strategic and coordinated manner. Districts must make a shift in thinking, approaching and delivering career development in their schools in order to help students and their families become more informed consumers of the education and training required to meet their personal goals.”

SMS students spent the day listening to volunteers to learn what they do, why the do it, and how they got there. It went pretty well on the first attempt, according to SMS counselor Johnna Hayes.

“We solicited members of the community and we were overwhelmed by the positive response we got,” she said. “We were worried about finding enough people and had many people from our community help, we had nearly 40.”

SMS faculty and staff have also embraced the mission, according to Hayes.

“We recognize that we’re not only educating kids but preparing them for the world of work, also,” she said. “We want to present options to them that they may not have known about before. A lot of kids my understand what their parents do, but not much outside of that.

“We have IT people, people from the oilfield, hospitality and tourism, health sciences …”

In one example Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce showed students various slides, explaining the inner workings of the City of Stillwater. The day ended with an assembly with active members of the military. Lt. Col. Benjamin Dahlke and Capt. Christopher Herbert with the Oklahoma State ROTC were on hand.

Dahlke asked the students to name all the occupations they had learned about that day, and concluded in most instances, “ … we have that in the Air Force.” With perhaps the one exception of veterinarian, to which Dahlke said, “they have that in the Army.” He then told the students all the ways that people can enter the Air Force, whether to be an officer or enlisted. Herbert explained the differences between the kind of jobs officers performed and the kind of jobs enlisted personnel perform.

The most entertaining question directed to Herbert might have been, “Is flying super hard?”

“The answer to that question is absolutely,” he said. “It costs about $1.5 million to train an Air Force pilot to fly an aircraft. Have you ever been in a really fast care? Imagine the fastest you’ve ever driven except 10 times that, and you’re in the sky, and if something goes wrong you fly 100 miles in the wrong direction. So, yes, it’s difficult, but you’ll be trained to do it before you do anything crazy?”