One thing that stood out to Garden City High School junior Luz Labra about Thursday’s Building Bridges event at GCHS was hearing that students could go into the workforce or career pathway they desire right here in Garden City.

“It just really interested me how much businesses want that student connection,” Labra said.

Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and employers gathered at GCHS for Building Bridges, an effort to bring local employers, teachers and students together to create a better workforce in Garden City. It was the third year for the event, which originally kicked off in 2015.

Offered through Finney County Workforce Connections, Building Bridges is an opportunity for business and industry to collaborate with educators to build a partnership to provide learning opportunities for Garden City students.

The goal is producing well-prepared and employable graduates to fill future positions in business and industry, according to the Garden City Chamber of Commerce.

Labra wants to pursue a career in business or marketing, she said, adding that because she is bilingual, it could make her future business be more welcoming.

“I mean if you’re bilingual, you can reach out to more people,” Labra said. “Business just interests me.”

The event included hors d’oeuvres catered by GCHS culinary students as well as breakout discussions with educators, divided by career grouping, which included health, arts and communications, public service and trade.

Kylee Hipp, a junior in the Health Academy at GCHS, said she learned a lot about what business people in the community are looking for when interviewing students who are fresh out of school and entering the workforce. Dressing appropriately and body language were some examples Hipp learned about.

After hearing from various business people in the community, both Hipp and Labra said that they plan to use what they learned to help prepare them for the workforce.

Chris Remmich, a science teacher at GCHS, said he and other teachers are trying to get business people into classrooms to show students jobs and careers that they otherwise might not consider.

A “neat” aspect of Building Bridges, Remmich said, is that students can see career opportunities other than those they may typically be thinking about.

“I just met someone from a bank here that does agri-business. By meeting people that are in different areas, it really opens up your horizons as far as where kids can go,” Remmich said. “It’s making these cool kind of cross-connections with business people.”

Bob Kreutzer, chief financial officer for Tatro Plumbing Company, Inc, served as the keynote speaker for the event. He described the event as a solid base for a win-win strategy for the community.

“The process of interaction between the education system, the students and the businesses in the community has created a significant opportunity to learn at all levels,” Kreutzer said. “The students that are here, they have an opportunity to view real world business situations, real world employment opportunities.”

Jenny Hands, career and technical education coordinator at GCHS, said she heard “wonderful discussions” during the event between teachers and community members about collaboration.

“And that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Hands said. “We’re looking for ways to make excellent learning opportunities for our students and I think bringing the community together is the best way to do that.”

Hands also encouraged anyone interested in partnering with teachers, whether it’s speaking in a classroom, helping in a lab, or presenting in a career or job fair, to contact her at jhands@gckschools.com or (620) 805-5412.