Deciding what we want to be when we grow up seems easy when we're children. The possibilities are endless, with everything from ballet dancer to astronaut on the table. Unfortunately, even ballerinas must grow up, and as we reach adulthood, we begin to realize that finding our path can be complicated; especially as high school graduation looms and important college choices must be made. But for Anchorage high school students, those hard decisions can be a little easier with the help of King Career Center.

Started by the Anchorage School District in 1974, King Career Center, better known as KCC, offers various programs and classes for high school students, all of which earn credit toward graduation. More than 1,000 students attend classes each semester during the school year, as well as an after-school session held in the fall. Courses include a nearly endless range of choices, from carpentry to culinary arts to veterinary science, with instructors working to provide students hands-on experience in the field of their choice.

Isaac Posey: The Silver Screen

Isaac Posey, a junior at Service High School, first heard about KCC from his sister. "I was a sophomore at the time and didn't have any idea what I wanted for my future," he said. "My sister was attending KCC and told me to check out their classes. I was immediately drawn to the Film Audio and Video Production class. I always wanted to make movies and create skits and I thought that might be a place I could make it happen."

With instruction in screenwriting and storyboards, as well as filming and the mechanics of camera operation, the Film Production class gives insight into what it takes to establish a career in this field, while providing students a fun way to grow their talent.

"My teachers were Mackenzie Banbury and April Frame, and they have been so encouraging," said Posey. "I'm more into the screenwriting side of things and they really teach you about being a professional."

While he still isn't sure of career direction, Posey credits KCC for narrowing his focus. "All through school, I kept asking myself what I wanted to do with my life. Then I joined KCC, and between the great teachers and the friends I've made, I feel very excited to be considering a career in film. I'm applying for an internship at KTUU News this summer, and hope to continue classes at KCC next year."

Lou Mei Gutsch: The Beauty of It

If you ask Lou Mei Gutsch, she's been interested in the beauty industry "since birth." A senior at Stellar Secondary School, her lifetime passion for hair styling led her to KCC's Cosmetology class.

"I wanted to try something new and decided to look into classes at KCC," said Gutsch. "When I saw they offered a cosmetology class, I knew I had to do it."

Gutsch feels the practical aspects of the classes are the key component in giving students a taste of what these careers entail in the real world. "We learn how to cut hair, give perms, even do pedicures," she said. "It definitely helps you prepare for the real world. And it's good that when you do make mistakes in class, you're making them on a dummy, not a real person. You can't make those kind of mistakes once you're out and establishing yourself in your career."

Lou Mei said she plans to attend cosmetology school after graduation, and credits KCC for helping her make that decision. "I've always loved helping people to feel good about themselves," she said. "Taking classes at KCC has made me even more excited to pursue a career in the beauty industry."

Daltin Johnson: Learning to Fly

Daltin Johnson has always loved planes. So when the SAVE High senior saw that KCC had an Aviation Technology program, he jumped at the chance to take it. Utilizing the University of Alaska's Aviation Complex at Merrill Field, students learn about aerodynamics, aircraft systems, flight instruments, weight and balance, and weather and equipment. Students also get real time experience in the complex's flight simulator.

Johnson said his experience at KCC has helped him see what different job options might be available to him, as well as what schools he can attend to further his education and work toward a career.

"I've learned a lot, from what makes planes fly, to reading instruments, to navigating airspace," he said. "I think KCC can give students a real head start in establishing themselves in a possible career, and I would recommend KCC to any student. There are a lot of classes and something for everyone."

Bryan Villegas: Health Care

West High senior Bryan Villegas knew he wanted to do something in the field of health care. He wasn't quite sure, however, what that something might be. "When I learned of the medical field opportunities offered at KCC, I decided to take some classes, with the main goal being to learn about different careers and figuring out a plan for college."

Villegas initially attended KCC's Advanced Health Career Pathways class, which gives a broader overview of job choices in the health industry. He is currently taking a Certified Nurse Aid Class, which involves shadowing professional CNAs and applying the skills learned in class.

"I personally think this is the most exciting part of the class," he said. "It's great to get hands-on experience in real world situations and see how what you've learned can be used to help others."

Villegas has his eye on a career in nursing, with the hope of eventually obtaining his master's degree and becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. "I highly recommend students to take advantage of KCC's classes, as it gives you a glimpse into where you might head in the future," he said. "And I would advise any potential students to stay open-minded, look at different possibilities. If you feel conflicted, the instructors are very helpful in guiding you and helping you build a solid foundation. But never stop exploring your options."

This article was originally published in The Youth Issue of 61°North Magazine. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at jgonzales@alaskadispatch.com with questions or comments.