Planning and executing the 2017 Penn Treaty Career Day was one of the best parts of the year so far. To me, our Career Fair was a perfect representation of what 12+ is: We try to give students the resources they need while also changing the culture of the schools we are placed in. The Career Fair merged these two directives seamlessly. We were able to connect students with people working in the fields they are interested in and give students valuable insight about how to get started in their desired careers. One of our seniors recently started volunteering with the SPCA after she met a representative from the organization at the fair. But we were also able to help students who had less of an idea of what they want to do long-term. Many students had no idea what a Human Resources Representative was, but after the fair, several students considered it as a serious job possibility. On both an individual and a school-wide level, we were able to expand the limits of what our students see as possible. It was incredibly encouraging to have the school principal, Mr. Howell, see the fair and testify that 12+ is so influential in changing the school’s environment by coordinating activities like College Week, Career Day, and college information sessions. It’s been amazing to witness how hosting these events has inspired so many students to widen their horizons and make positive change happen.
We were able to bring in over 25 career professionals to our Career Fair. These amazing volunteers prompted students to consider careers they had not previously thought about. When students entered the PLUS Center during the career fair, many students did not know which career representative to talk to. Several students responded to the question, “What kind of job would you like to have?” with shrugs and “I don’t know"s. When we encountered these students, we started asking, “Well, what’s your favorite class?” If the student answered, “Math,” then we steered her toward the product engineer or the data analyst. If the student answered, “English,” we encouraged him to have a conversation with a Marketing Representative or a Campaign Director. It was great to have so many career options to show students!
Another great part of the fair was that we were able to show students that it is possible to turn your passion into a career. At Penn Treaty, we have lots of students who love art, but we know that field can be a difficult field to find a stable job in. We were able to bring in an architect and two videographers, who were able to advise students how to find a productive way to express their creativity. We have so many students that are athletics-oriented, but we want our students to consider building career paths that don’t center around being a professional athlete. At our career fair, students had the opportunity to talk to personal trainers and sports broadcasters, and learn what it takes to turn their love of sports into a career. We were even able to bring in an EMT who had past experience in the automotive world. He was able to talk to students not just about what it’s like to have a career in the medical field, but what it’s like to work in the automotive industry as well. He was a great resource because he was able to talk about a wide variety of interests and engage students on different levels. The same was true for the chef who started a popsicle shop and the medical researcher who started her own business. These individuals showed our students that with hard work and further education, they can achieve their dreams.
We also created a career-themed mural that hangs in the hallway outside the PLUS Center that is a visual representation of the culture shift we try to create. We hung in the hallway a graphic representation of the Philly skyline, with several buildings for which students created individual windows out of small, colorful pieces of paper. These windows unfold to reveal each student’s dream career, what they can do to get there, and a drawing of themselves. Having such a visual representation of what success looks like to different students, as well as the work it takes them to get there, inspires other students to have dreams and work hard to achieve them. When we are able to reach almost every students in the school through visual collaborative projects, we are at our most effective. Even students that did not participate directly in creating the mural have gained inspiration by witnessing their peer’s ambition. Career Day not only changed several students ideas of what they could be when they grow up; it also changed the culture of the school. Since the fair, multiple students have asked us about our mural, or just stopped to look at it in the hall. We are slowly, little by little, widening our students’ worldviews and introducing them to careers at which they may excel but just have never had exposure to.