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STERLING, Ill. — From the time children are able to speak, adults ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some people may never really know. But what if you found a path tailored to your natural talents? And finding out what drives you so you could save you a lot of time, money and frustration.

More than 100 miles west of Chicago, some students at Sterling High School are gaining insight. Every year for more than a decade, an anonymous benefactor has been picking up most of the tab for students to take the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation’s $720 dollar aptitude test. Since 1922,  Johnson O’Connor, a nonprofit organization,  has been helping people of all ages realize their natural talents.

“We’re not career counselors,” Kelsey Bakas, director of Johnson O’Connor’s Chicago office, said. “(We focus on) natural strengths abilities, innate abilities that want to be utilized.”

“I think for our students, we appreciate it,” Kaileen Gaumer, school counselor, said. “It gets them out of Sterling and into the city. And they may not have done that before. It helps them remember there’s a life outside of sterling, and it gives them an incredible opportunity to learn about themselves.”

This isn’t your typical test. There are no fill in the blanks or scantron. The tests may seem mysterious at first, but the results are telling. They reveal aptitude, highlighting a person’s natural abilities, skills they may take for granted.

Bakas said the test has evolved over the years, but the intention stays the same.

“Each individual will come away with a different understanding of how to use the results for them.”

The daylong test studies a person’s manual dexterity, memory, spatial visualization and more. Among the students in sterling, the test has gotten incredibly popular.

“Having someone tell you, ‘Yes, you’re good at this’ or ‘No, you’re not good at this,’ is really helpful.” Turner Garcia, a senior, said.  “I knew that I could do something good, I guess, but I just didn’t know what that was.”

After the day of tests is complete, and the results are tabulated, representatives from Johnson O’Connor travel to Sterling to share the findings with students and their parents.

It’s never too late to learn about yourself. Adults can take the test. It can prove helpful for people considering a career change. And it doesn’t only help people decipher their professional interests.

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