Middle School Career Day Helps Students Explore Their Professional Options

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What do you want to do when you grow up? That’s a question Heathwood Middle School students got to explore for several hours on January 26, when more than 20 Heathwood alumni, parents, and friends came by and talked with the students about their careers.

Guest speakers included attorneys, physicians, members of the military, a teacher, a professor, an engineer, a chef, an entrepreneur, an architect, a social worker, two associate athletics directors at USC, and more. Lt. Kevin Hoover from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department K9 unit even brought along his canine partner, Arko. Students were able to attend sessions with up to four presenters of their choice.

Career Day was the brainchild of Middle School Guidance Counselor Stacy Gross. “Middle School is an ideal time for students to begin thinking ‘outside the box’ about potential careers,” Gross said. “We wanted to give our students an opportunity to learn more about careers they may already have an interest in, as well as careers they may not have thought about or understood before.”

For the students, hearing first-hand about the presenters’ career paths, what a typical day on the job is like for them, and what advice they have for those who want to follow in their footsteps was rich food for thought. “After the sessions,” Gross said, “the students were talking in the hallways and at lunch about the different tidbits that they learned about various careers. And the speakers were so impressed with the engagement the students demonstrated and the intelligent questions they asked.”

The students’ enthusiasm has inspired Gross to start planning already for next year’s Career Day. One thing she learned from this year’s event is that great presenters are key. “Career Day would not have been as successful without the generous gifts of time from all our presenters,” she said.  “The students and teachers couldn’t stop talking about what a great time they had hearing stories from people from different walks of life and unique experiences. Tremendous thanks to our speakers for making this event a day that was enjoyed by all!”

Student feedback on Career Day:

5th grade:

Ellie Draffin: “Career Day was so awesome that I want to have it next year!”

Liam Quan: “Through all my sessions I wondered which career would give me the most sustainable, happy life.”

6th grade:

Austin Tuller: “I enjoyed learning about how you took something you loved and made it your own. One thing I learned from you was if you want something really badly and you think about it a lot and work hard for it, it will come true.” (letter to Tom Mauldin)

Addie-Grace Cook: “It is extremely empowering that you save every baby regardless of its skin color or personal background. I hope to have a career in Neonatology when I grow up. I know that if I work as hard as you I can do it. Thank you for inspiring me.” (letter to Dr. Laura Basile)

Iris Griffin: “I was so fascinated by your presentation that I am considering a career in Neonatology.” (letter to Dr. Basile)

Kayla Barnes: “I learned it takes hard work to pursue a medical career…You have inspired me to work hard in school.” (letter to Dr. James French)

Alexander Roberts: “I enjoyed listening and relating to your love of sports…I have always wanted to go to South Carolina, and now I’m considering working there. I’ve always loved sports, and you’ve shown me I could work in the business I love.” (letter to Eric Nichols, Assistant AD at USC)

7th grade:

Emma McIntosh: “I learned that careers aren’t just doing a job for money, but it’s about doing what you love.”

AJ Kuse: “I learned that no matter how hard something is, if you want it enough, it will happen.”

Lily Price: “ I learned from the Hook ‘n’ Hide guy that you need to have creativity, passion, and perseverance.”

Walker McKay: “I learned that ‘the secret’ is creativity, passion, and perseverance, and that when you have a job that you love, it really isn’t work.”

Clara Wilson: “I learned that you should do what you want to do, don’t ty to do something because someone else is doing it.”

Olivia Keith: “The first man I went to said that if you believe enough in your passion, you will eventually make a job out of it.”

Serena Parmar: “I loved career day! I have never done anything like it. I really enjoyed listening to a couple of different adults. I really thought it was a great experience overall and would love to do it again.”