Students stood around an elementary school site plan, moving cutouts of classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym, playing fields and other elements of a school, working to fit everything on the site in a well-ordered pattern.
They were high school students interested in architecture and design, learning firsthand some of the things architects and engineers have to consider when designing a school.
Site planning was just one of the opportunities Montgomery County Public Schools students, mostly high school juniors, had while participating in workplace scenarios at the 13th annual Young Professionals Conference Thursday at the Universities at Shady Grove, Rockville.
“MCBRE is all about connecting students and the outside world,” said Nikki Malcolm, program manager for Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education, one of the conference sponsors. “These students are on a chosen career pathway and we bring them businesses from the community.”
The conference was also sponsored by Montgomery County Public Schools, the Universities at Shady Grove and Montgomery College.
Participants also spent time learning from businesses that included law, teaching, finance, information technology, biosciences, broadcast media and hospitality, all career pathways programs offered in county high schools.
It was an opportunity for the students to ask questions of professionals in a field they might pursue, learn about the education required and the variety of experiences each profession offers.
Hanna Berhane, a junior at Wheaton High School, said she is studying both aerospace engineering and digital engineering this year. She isn’t sure about her future career but found the presentation by architects from the firm of Grimm and Parker Architects, of Calverton, interesting.
“It was really interactive,” she said. “I liked that they gave us a challenge to work on.”
The event was organized like a real business conference, Malcolm said, with a keynote speaker, break-out sessions and a networking lunch.
Thomas Perry, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center in Washington, D.C. was the keynote speaker, encouraging the students to make the most of their time and giving a few words of advice while sharing his own story.
“It’s important for you all to understand you have to work hard,” he said. “The person who will have the most success is the person who makes the most of the 86,400 seconds in the day.”
He also told the students that they would only be as good as the people they spent their time with and encouraged them to find older people to learn from.
“If you’re 16 years old, you cannot learn everything about life from another 16-year-old,” he said. “If you want to learn about life, find someone ten years older than you who is doing what you want to do and hang out with them.”
Fredy Calderon, a senior at Northwood High School, Silver Spring, said he was impressed by Perry’s talk and thought it was a great way to start the conference.
He wants to pursue a career in law. Lawyers get incomplete information and have to fill in the blanks, he said,
“I find it interesting,” he said, “That’s what I like to do.”