Staff Sgt. April Edwards made adjustments to the fire apparatus strapped to the back of eighth-grader Kyguan Owens.

Once secured, she gave the Mount Olive Middle School student the go-ahead for the next challenge -- doing 10 push-ups with the 45 PSI air cylinder in tow.

The exercise was part of the booth at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Fire Department booth at the Middle School Career Fair held Tuesday at the YMCA.

"I wanted to try it because my dad was in the Army," Owens said. "I want to go into the Air Force."

He admitted the canister was much heavier than it looked when he set out to participate in the demonstration.

"My last one was kind of hard," he said, but managed to complete all 10 push-ups.

Classmate Kayin Turner fell slightly short of the goal.

"It was good but then I was slowing down and that's what made me mess up," he said. "I made it to nine."

Turner had arrived at the career fair looking for something related to creating video games. A friend convinced him to check out the fire department booth.

Classmate Shelton Simplice focused his sights on the military. He is interested in the Navy, he said, but also likes the Marines.

This is the eighth year for the annual event, sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and Wayne Education Network, in conjunction with Wayne County Public Schools. Nearly 1,500 eighth-graders from public, private and home-school settings were expected to pass through the doors and explore job and career options available in Wayne County.

For weeks leading up to the event, counselors across the county have been preparing students, encouraging potential questions they might ask when the time came to investigate their areas of interest.

Nearly 70 vendors set up their wares around the inside of the gymnasium and spilling over to the outside lawn.

Law enforcement is always a popular draw for youth and this year was no different.

Marissa Davis of the Goldsboro Police Department was prepared for the next group of students headed her way.

"They want to know about the different units (in the department)," she said. "I have had some good questions as far as salary. I thought that was very interesting from a young person.

"They're undecided but they're willing to come to your booth and ask questions, just see what it's all about."

Carlie Hopper and Guadalupe Zavala-Baeza of Rosewood Middle School had a shared interest in the nursing profession.

Both expressed appreciation for what they learned from their visit.

Miss Hopper said it was helpful to discover what subjects she needed to take to prepare, like science.

Miss Zavala-Baeza's question for the nurses was more basic -- "what they do every day."

Vann Lane of Vann Auto Sales was a new participant this year.

The backdrop of his table set up outside was a 2005 white Chevrolet Corvette convertible atop a 2016 "rollback" car carrier.

It was drawing a bit of interest, from students wanting their picture taken with the vehicle to questions about the business.

"From, 'What do you do?' to 'How do you get started?'" Lane said. "I started out washing cars to this."

His own slow rise to success, buying one car at a time, provided a message for students looking ahead to their own future.

"(I tell them) you can have anything you want and be anything you want," he said. "You just have to work and manage."

It's a message he often told his own son, Cameron Lane, working alongside his dad at the career fair.

Kayla Dear, a Mount Olive Middle student, was still narrowing down career choices, but was leaning toward nursing.

"I'm just like trying to find out all I can about it because that's the field I want to go into," she said.

"The best thing that I heard is like all the different things, like helping and all, that you can do in nursing."

Representing Waynesborough Family Clinic, Hillary Smith, a former middle school teacher, said she tried to make a correlation to students visiting the booth.

"I'm trying to impart to them, I want them to think about themselves first," she said, gesturing to a sign that asked if they had patience, liked to help others and had compassion. She applied the if-then rule of thumb, suggesting they may want to consider professions that include psychiatrist, physician's assistant or peer support specialist. "I'm just trying to give them some of the jobs that we provide that you don't have to have a college education, some they can get with just high school."

Heather Miller was helping out in the 4-H Robotics booth, demonstrating a robot and promoting the club to enlist new members. A home-schooled high school freshman, this is her second time at the career fair.

"I had fun," she said. "I get to help my club out, get new members and get to meet new people."

She has also formulated her own plan for the future, setting her sights on the engineering field.

"I was going to go into child care but then I got really into engineering and changed my course of career," the 16-year-old said. "I'll probably go into the electrical side of it."