It hadn't even been a full week since the Maxwell Center opened, but the building was already bustling Wednesday as it hosted the annual middle school career fair for students across the county.
A collaboration between Wayne County Public Schools, the Wayne Education Network and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, the career fair has been a tradition for 10 years. It was previously held at the community YMCA, but began to outgrow that space, said Janet Brock, Chamber coordinator for Wayne Education Network programs. The opening of the Maxwell Center coincided nicely with that, allowing the event to expand.
"We have got about 1,500 eighth-grade students that are attending, and we've got right at 100 exhibitors that are out here today," she said. "Very excited about the turnout, we've probably got 30 or 40 percent more exhibitors than we've had before."
Outside, students visited with military representatives and first responders, and toured vehicles including a firetruck and helicopter.
The main room inside the building was broken up into segments by black curtains, directing students down rows of booths set up by various companies.
Katie Smith, Ana Griffin Shaw, Taylor Gery, Riley Maldonado are all eighth-graders from Rosewood Middle School.
They went together to look at booths from the health industry, all four sharing an interest in the field. Smith and Shaw said they had parents in the field, while Gery and Maldonado were simply interested in the field as a potential career path.
The girls are getting ready to move on to high school soon. Smith said she was excited for the chance to pick classes which would benefit her specific goals, which the other girls agreed with.
"Being able to choose your classes so you don't have to take the same ones over and over," she said. "Just preparing us for our futures."
Health careers were only a few of the many options available to the students. Brock said that the having a wide range of businesses represented was good for everyone.
"It's a win-win for the county. You're bringing young people in and getting them interested in businesses that are going to be looking for them when they come for employment in five years, six years," she said.
Beverly Carroll, chair of the Wayne Education Network, said that the goal of the career day is to promote the workforce.
"Workforce development and career awareness, we want to spark some interest in those students," she said.
"And it doesn't have to be a four-year degree, we need skilled work force in Wayne County."