Debbie Arell-Martinez, O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, called Thursday’s Sixth Annual Eighth Grade Career Exploration Fair a “huge success.”
Over 70 professional vendors and 620 students attended held at the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon.
O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, along with Junior Achievement and Scott Air Force Base STEAM Advisory Group sponsored the event.
“In a few short years, these students will be part of our workforce,” Arell-Martinez said. “The fair planners and over 70 role models (who) participated in the fair recognize this and have dedicated the resources to make that happen.”
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Eighth grade is a critical time in the decision making process for students. As you know, preparing young people to survive in the future is a serious responsibility.
Today’s students are our future doctors, educators, political leaders, plumbers, computer experts, employers, and employees in career areas that aren’t yet imaginable.
“This is an investment in our future,” Arell-Martinez said.
With tables dedicated to a variety of professions, vendors were met with groups of four students every 15 minutes approximately, with short breaks in between. The students, who already were provided with a list of the vendors prior to the fair were allowed to choose with table to ‘interview’ at.
And, that’s not being interviewed, the student is the one interviewing professionals to explore which career path is best fitted for his or her interests, needs and skills. Each school had the opportunity to have four to six role model rotations.
The student goals for fair:
▪ Investigate a variety of careers and the skills, education preparation, training and personal qualities needed for those careers.
▪ Learn about applying school skills to work world situations.
▪ Understand the need to enter high school, achieve and graduate.
The purpose of this fair is to give the students a chance to get more information on the future careers in which they’re interested. There is some preparation built into the eighth grade curriculum with follow-on work built into the ninth grade curriculum, according to Arell-Martinez.
O’Fallon School District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby attended to peek in on the local students in her district with enthusiasm.
“I was very impressed with the career fair,” she said. “Mentors from a wide variety of careers gave students personal attention and answered their individual questions. The eighth grade students were professional in their appearance and interactions with the mentors. It was a terrific opportunity for (them) to make decisions about future career choices.”
Natalie Heltne, an eighth grader from Fulton Junior High School, said she loves to write short stories, bowl and loves animals.
“I know I love to write, but I have trouble finishing my stories,” Heltne said. “But I do also write in a journal everyday, and that helps me with my (creative) expression.”
With a goal of attending McKendree University in Lebanon, Heltne said, she already has a leg up in the athletic world with her involvement in softball and now bowling.
She even knows how to drill out her bowling balls, which she uses a 14 or 15 pounders usually, Heltne said.
“It would be perfect if I could be a sports columnist — I’d have the best of both worlds,” Heltne said with an ear-to-ear smile.
Aside from Edward A. Fulton Jr. High, the other five public and private schools participating in this year’s event were Amelia V. Carriel Junior High School, Shiloh Middle School, Joseph Arthur Middle School, First Baptist Academy and St. Clare Catholic School.