Thursday May 24, 2012
Recently this month, the 8th graders at F.H. Tuttle Middle School got a dose of reality. And loved every minute.
As participants in the school’s first-ever Career Day, some 175 students listened eagerly as 12 professionals from the greater Burlington community gave presentations about their careers and the paths that led to them. The professions they represented were as varied as today’s job market, from physician (Chris Hebert, MD), web designer (Emily Frazier), Certified Medical Assistant (Ann Mason) and television news reporter (WCAX’s Gena Bullard), to an Assistant US Attorney (Barbara Masterson), electrical engineer (Erwin Cohen), lighting designer (Bill Kneen) and a K-9 unit State Trooper (Michelle LeBlanc, who brought her police dog with her).
“Our goal was to create an awareness of the many kinds of careers out there,” explained FHTMS principal Karsten Schlenter. “You never know when you’ll get a spark that inspires a student to see where their interests might lead them.” It was Schlenter’s idea to bring Career Day to FHTMS, after spearheading a successful annual Career Day at the Michigan school where he’d previously served as principal. “At 12 to 13 years old, 8th graders don’t have to be making big decisions about their future yet, but having an event like this plants the seeds.”
When FHTMS teacher David Bailey organized the event with PTO officers Lee Jackson and Brenda Balon, they made a point of including some nontraditional careers. “In today’s job market, more and more people—especially young people—are designing their own careers,” Bailey noted. “And that’s changing the way employers look at hiring people,” he added. With more companies offering part-time and work-at-home options, “there’s a lot more possibilities out there than just 9-to-5 jobs.”
A few weeks before the event, the students took a survey that helped them map out their skills and interests. “We wanted kids to think about what they’re interested in and good at,” explained Bailey, “so they could ask good questions.” Likewise, each presenter was asked to speak about the specific skills they applied to their work, and how their learning choices in school helped prepare them.
Some kids were surprised to discover, for example, that South Burlington-based candlemaker Heather Paine needed more than just art courses to prepare her for her work. “I use formulas in everything I do,” explained Paine in her presentation. “There’s a lot of physics, math and geometry involved: I need to calculate percentages of ingredients and fragrance load.” Paine, who brought in samples of candles, waxes and molds from her company, Spirited Living, Inc., added, “An entrepreneur has to be multifaceted.”
“If you’re going into meterology, math, science, calculus, physics are all going to be important,” advised Dan Dowling, WCAX meteorologist, in his talk. “And, if you’re going to be broadcasting, you’ll need public speaking skills too.”
Delta Airlines pilot Jeff Bendoski, who is also an US Air Force reserve Lieutenant Colonel and a former Hurricane Hunter, emphasized that “the most important thing right now is to do your best at school. If you work hard and graduate in the top of your class, you can just about write your own ticket for any career.”
Principal Schlenter reported “fantastic feedback” from the presenters and students, and looks forward to making the event an annual tradition. “Next year we’d like to build on the momentum,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can line up more speakers and have more local businesses be involved.”
SOURCE: Joyce Hendley, Contributor