High school juniors and seniors are the audience for career days in school with thoughts of future jobs and college courses right around the bend. But in 2013 middle school students preparing to enter high school are exposed to new possibilities for their future.
On Feb. 8, 23 professionals in careers as diverse as a professional dog trainer, pilot, asthma researcher and even a Hollywood director spoke to students at Riverwood Middle School.
“We want to open these kid’s minds to the millions of different kinds of jobs that are out there,” said Martha Stovall, owner of Club Z In-Home Tutoring Service and educational outreach ambassador of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce.
“The speakers love what they do and want to share their life experiences with the students,” Stovall explained.
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Students entering high school are labeled as either “college bound” or “career bound.” Events like career day showcase careers that are possible on both tracks and give the students options they may not have considered.
Speakers also discussed with students the idea of perseverance. Some explained that they were not the strongest students in middle and high school, but they found their passions and pursued them to the fullest.
One speaker, Raquel Williams, spoke about her past as a horticulturist who worked at the Disney Studios in Orlando. The experience led her to pursue her love of dance and now she owns DPM Dance Studios in Clayton.
“The speakers told the kids that sometimes you go to school to do one thing and then end up doing something entirely different, and that’s OK too,” Stovall said.
Stovall and members of the Chamber worked to stage the first career day last year at Clayton Middle School. The event was a success and so Stovall reached out to Riverwood’s teachers to include them as well.
“The eighth grade students are beginning to look at high school electives. The more exposure we can give them to different careers that may explore their interests, the better,” explained RMS teacher Lee Ann Parrish. “The speakers shared the education and skills that are required for their careers. The experience hopefully gave [the students] some direction and offered insight into some of what the world offers.”
The 23 speakers were paired up and divided into groups of seven or eight who rotated through the three eighth grade teams. Each student heard from seven or eight professionals.
“We did it all during their enhancement (elective) periods so that no time was taken from their core classes,” Parrish said. “The students listened to the speakers’ prepared remarks and then had the opportunity to ask questions.”
Parrish went on to say that she has had positive feedback from the teachers and students. Next year the teachers would like to offer career day two times so that the students could hear sixteen speakers rather than eight.
“This was such a positive day for the whole school. We really appreciate all of Martha Stovall’s work to put it together,” Parrish said.
As for the speakers, Stovall said that they enjoyed it as much or perhaps more than the students. “The people who spoke are very community-minded individuals,” she said. “They really enjoy their careers and want to share that love with the students. They also wanted to share some of their life experiences of never giving up with the kids as well.”
Clayton Middle School will also have an opportunity to benefit from Career Day. On June 6 Stovall and the speakers will descend on the Eagles.