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Kittson County graduates pursing dreams through college, workforce

        Keaton Hultgren                                   Alayna Peterson                            Travis Rich

By Anna Jauhola
As senior students at Kittson County schools prepare for graduation, and with college tuition continually on the rise, each one has very different plans. Some will attend four-year colleges, others will attend two-year tech or trade schools, while still others will directly enter the workforce.
Travis Rich, for example, said he has always just wanted to work. The Lancaster student said his career interests don’t require a college education.
“All my life I’ve never had any plans of going to college,” he said, simply.
His brother, Corey, suggested he apply at the CHS Canola plant south of Hallock, which Rich did earlier this spring and was offered a job at the beginning of May. He received a letter in the mail, signed it and returned it to the canola plant the following day.
“I was excited to get the offer,” he said. “There were other people up for the job, too. It felt pretty good.”
Rich, who is 18, will be an operations technician. He’s looking forward to working with the other operators at the plant. His brother worked there for a time and told him about the work environment, what he would likely do in the position and just how much fun he had in the position. Rich is confident he’ll enjoy it and learn quickly because of the information Corey relayed.
“I think I’ll love the people,” Rich said. “When you know something or have more knowledge about something, you’ll be able to do it efficiently.”
Rich isn’t a stranger to hard work. He has worked at the Lake Bronson Elevator for a while, including throughout last summer. He shadowed the manager to learn some of the day-to-day operations, but also did physical work like shoveling grain and helping take apart the seed cleaner to maintain it.
“That was a new thing for me,” he said.
Rich will continue to live in Lake Bronson and has considered getting his certified driver’s license, or CDL, in the future.
In searching for his desired career, Kittson Central’s Keaton Hultgren stumbled upon wildland firefighting through watching YouTube videos. Each spring and fall, Hultgren and his dad, Kenny, help a neighbor burn CRP land.
“I absolutely had a blast doing that,” Hultgren said. “I figured, is there a way I can expand on this? And I figured out there actually is. I’m outside all the time, I’m playing with fire and having fun while making money. ”
Hultgren will attend Itasca Community College in the fall at Grand Rapids, Minn. He’s excited that most of his classes in the wildland firefighting program will be outside.
“And all of them are directly related to what I’ll be doing in the workforce,” he said.
During the two-year program, Hultgren will participate in many physically challenging courses, including learning how to wear the gear he’d wear every day in the field.
In one test, he will carry a 40-pound back for three miles in under 45 minutes, without running.
“When you’re out for 16 hours a day, you won’t be doing any running at all, so you’ll be conserving as much energy as possible,” Hultgren said. “Part of that pack will be up to 10 litres of water.”
Although it can be a dangerous job, Hultgren is looking forward to the challenge and the idea of traveling all over is beginning to grow on him. He hopes to work most of the time for the U.S. Forest Service when he completes the program at Itasca. But, he also hopes his work can take him home to Kittson County where he could work with The Nature Conservancy in Karlstad, which mostly does prescribed burns.
“For the U.S. Forest Service, I would be doing backburns where we scrape away all the burnable material and then light it up so it’s going toward the big fire you’re trying to control,” Hultgren said. “So it can’t jump across that fire line and continue to burn there.”
In researching his intended career, Hultgren discovered fire is much more predictable than he realized. He is really looking forward to seeing all the different regions of the country.
“If you’re smart about it, it’s less possible to get hurt,” he said. “I enjoy it so much and being outside, I just couldn’t say no.”
Alayna Peterson, of Tri-County School, is excited to try something new.
While she has always been more involved with the arts during high school, she has found a passion more focused on improving society and making a difference. Peterson will attend Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn. The four-year sociology program will be her focus as she plans to enter the world of human resources.
“I went to a college fair at the beginning of last year,” she said. “Something about SMSU just made me want to go there. It just seemed inviting.”
Peterson chose sociology after some debate because the career path she has chosen will pay better, but also human resources is more appealing than other careers she considered.
“I like the thought and feeling of being involved with society, which is also what pushed me toward sociology,” Peterson said. “Being involved has helped me want to make a difference in people’s lives and the world.”
Having grown up in such a small town, having nearly the same experiences as everyone else, Peterson is looking forward to getting a new start.
“I’m excited about moving and going to college and having a roommate and meeting a bunch of new people who have had different experiences,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having a better career than what my parents were able to have.”
Although going out into the world is a scary thought, Peterson is exhilarated by the move, but it is coming faster than she’d like.
“I only have eight days left,” she said last week. “And I’m dreading every single one because I know I’m going to miss my classmates. Make the days last. It can be rough.”
She has some advice for underclassmen, whether they’re searching for a job after graduation or attending school: “Do something that actually interests you instead of doing something that’s just good for the money or what your parents want you to do.”

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