Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Career Day gives middle school students job options

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If students from John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus are an accurate representation of the future, Montgomery County will be in good hands when the next generation takes over.

At the school’s annual career day for eighth-graders last month, many of the students were interested in careers in service to the community and the nation.

‘‘A lot of students were interested in the military and a lot in public safety,” said Barbara Becker, an eighth-grade counselor.

Viola Juwillie, 13, made the military her first choice.

‘‘I want to be able to help my country,” she said.

Representatives from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Public Health Service explained the mission of their services to the students in the school media center.

‘‘It is a great honor to protect others and give them the freedoms we have back here in the United States,” said retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Darryck Farmer.

He told students they could get college credit for the training they receive in the service, starting with basic training.

Michael Curran, 14, did not need convincing — he already knows he wants to be a Marine sniper.

‘‘I thought it would be a fun career and a good job,” Michael said, adding that he already hunts for deer and geese, which his family uses for food.

In addition to the military, representatives from the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department and Montgomery County Police Department rounded out the public safety and security panel of speakers.

‘‘A lot of [the students] are interested in money,” Becker said.

They want to earn a lot of money so they think they want to be a doctor or veterinarian, she said.

Career day gives them a chance to learn how much education is required and how expensive it is to train for those careers, Becker said.

‘‘This is reality, we tell them what it takes,” she said.

Although most of the eighth-graders are only 13 or 14 years old, they are not too young to start planning for the future.

‘‘You don’t have to decide right now, what you need to know is what interests you. That helps you decide which classes to take in high school,” said Damascus High School horticulture instructor Lori Mayhew. ‘‘Today’s choices open tomorrow’s door.”

Mayhew introduced some of the vocational options open to students at the high school. Among the options students can explore are classes in child development, professional restaurant management, automotive technology, construction trades, horticulture and information technology.

Many of the students liked the opportunity to see a variety of career options, which ranged from doctors and lawyers to plumbers, accountants and cosmetologists.

Joanna Jones, 14, wants to be a veterinarian but also attended the session on plumbing that Ed and Jenny Fitterer, parents of two Baker students, gave describing their business.

‘‘I just decided why not. It was interesting, especially when she talked about pipes underground,” Joanna said.

‘‘I liked it. All the demos and pipes, that was cool,” said Susan Hilton, 13, referring to the many hands-on activities the Fitterers had set up allowing students to take apart plumbing fixtures, see how a toilet flushes, even snake a sock out of a drain. Susan wants to be a firefighter.

Becker began planning the career day by visiting students’ classes and asking them to write down what jobs they want to learn more about.

‘‘They definitely have ideas, they all write down two or three things,” she said.

Students chose which career talks they wanted to attend. There were three periods during the morning and 27 presenters.

‘‘It’s a very special event in the life of our school,” Principal Louise Worthington said. ‘‘The students get to hear [about career options] and the parents and community get to share.”