02/17/10 — When they grow up ...

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When they grow up ...

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 17, 2010 1:46 PM

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Michael Betts

Wayne Community College nursing instructor Bonnie Gray, R.N., demonstrates the heart and lung sounds simulator for Brogden Middle School students Arlin Castellanos, right, and Marquis Greenfield during the Wayne Education Network Middle School Career Fair at the Goldsboro YMCA. More than 60 booths were set up for students to learn more about careers they may be interested in exploring.

Marquis Greenfield and Arlin Castellanos, students at Brogden Middle School, want to be doctors when they grow up.

Emily Jones, also from Brogden, one day "may be a detective."

Leea Williamson, who attends Grantham School, is weighing the options between working with animals, children or computers.

Her classmate Danielle Weathersby is considering a career as a teacher or in technology.

Tuesday, they were given the opportunity to explore career choices at the middle school career fair, sponsored by Wayne Education Network and the Chamber of Commerce. During the two-day event at the Family YMCA, which concludes today, an estimated 1,400 seventh-graders will have visited the 60 booths representing business and industry in Wayne County.

"It was just very interesting about all the things that we could learn," said Emily.

"I enjoyed everything but the best thing I liked was the booth about the medical centers," Marquis said.

"I was interested in the pediatrics section," said Arlin. "I enjoyed that very much. They showed us the different types of how to care for the children and how the heartbeat is supposed to sound."

Leea was more pragmatic.

"I just came to find out the pay and how much education you have to have," she said.

It was perhaps the best possible field trip the students could be taken on, as they stand on the threshold of their futures.

"We usually target eighth-graders but this year did career exploration with seventh-graders," said Angie Rains, a counselor at Rosewood Middle School. Students were given a career assessment beforehand to zone in on individual strengths and interests.

Upon arrival at the career fair, they were given a "passport" to guide them to the appropriate booths to explore.

"The kids were very interested," said Mary Ellen Corbett, an instructional assistant at Brogden Middle. "They were real excited about talking to people in the career field they were interested in. ... I think it encourages them, maybe it will give them an idea of things they might be interested in (and) what they need to do to further themselves in school.

"Next year they'll start picking out classes for high school. I think this gives them an idea of what they need to do to go from there."

That's exactly what prompted the idea of introducing a a career fair at the middle school level. Typically, the event has catered to high school students.

"We met with the middle school principals and asked what we could do for them. This was the first recommendation that they had," said Dr. Ed Wilson, chairman of the Wayne Education Network. "They have to make a career choice in eighth grade. It's important for them to get as much information as possible."

By having representatives from a variety of professions, it allowed students to see how people dress and the education required for the job, which could be a "tremendous motivating factor" as students decide on their future jobs, Wilson said. And it won't stop with the career fair, he added.

"There will be activities, follow-up afterward, part of the career awareness program," he said.

Mario Re, principal at Norwayne Middle, said teachers and counselors will continue to build on the discussion in the days to come.

"We're hoping that we're going to use this as they decide what track to take in high school," he said.

The idea of speaking with employers and employees was an effective tool, Re said.

"Our kids are really excited because they were interested in seeing the real businesses that are here from all over the county," he said.

The health care profession drew a lot of questions.

Staffing one booth were Sherry Rogers, director of staff development at Wayne Memorial Hospital; Pam Lewis, a nurse at the hospital; Bonnie Gray, a nursing instructor at Wayne Community College; and Dr. Cindy Archie, the college's division chair of allied health and public services.

"I saw a lot of wannabe doctors and a few that wanted to be nurses," said Mrs. Rogers, with an occasional aspiring model or a lawyer "because they don't like blood."

"I think it's interesting that those that are interested in careers in nursing, often have someone in their family who's a nurse or they have a positive experience with a nurse in the past," said Mrs. Gray.

"A lot of them don't realize there are other areas in health care -- medical assisting, biomedical engineering, physical therapy," said Mrs. Lewis.

The college frequently adds programs as jobs in a field open up, said Dr. Archie. The latest is a one-year diploma program in pharmacy technology.

The women did more than impart information about their respective careers, however.

"We have been encouraging these middle school students to take the math and science and not graduate from high school and realize they have missed something," Mrs. Gray said.

Each school had an hour- and-a-half to visit the various booths, with efforts made to provide as many career options as possible for them to investigate.

Steve Hicks, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, also had high praise for the event.

"We're just thrilled that every middle school kid in Wayne County is getting the opportunity to see what the businesses are all about," he said. "At that age, we need to expose them so that they can begin to think about their high school courses and what career opportunities are there."

The career fair concept provided a "hands-on experience" beyond what can be taught in the classroom, he said. Hopefully, it'll also be a preventive measure to keep students in school.

"We all know that most kids drop out when they're 16 years of age," Hicks said. "Unfortunately that happens more than we want, so what we're trying to do is get kids that age -- 12, 13, 14 -- to understand how important it is that they continue their education because their education is what's going to carry them through life."

Exposing them to a variety of professions will benefit them, and hopefully the local economy in the future, as students are exposed to "literally thousands of occupations within the county," Hicks said.