By: David Walter
Career fairs are typically held in high school and college for those anticipating graduation. Johnson County Middle School (JCMS) has however sought to break outside the norm, taking the initiative to hold its first career fair for students. The event was held last Tuesday for seventh grade students in the JCMS gymnasium. It was orchestrated by Johnson County Schools GEAR UP coordinator Stephanie Shores. GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. This project aims to increase the number of low-income and first-generation students enrolling in college. There are currently 15 school districts across Tennessee, including Johnson County Schools, which are taking part in this seven-year discretionary grant program.
The event featured a multitude of employers and organizations from across the country who volunteered their time to inform JCMS students about the variety of options for their future. The goal was to get a jumpstart on preparing the students for college and opportunities in the workforce.
Shores attributed the success of the event to Erika Adams from Northeast States CAP Program, also known as the College Access Program. Adams was at the career fair and highlighted the programs focus on student preparation for college success, mentoring initiatives, leadership development, study skills, occupational skills training, and summer employment opportunities. The program is free and additionally offers transitional credits to participating high school students. Likewise, representatives from the Tennessee Technology Center at Elizabethton were in attendance. They outlined the variety of trade programs available at their institution. The other educational entity at the career fair was the locally based Watauga Baptist Bible College. They are based out of Mountain City in connection with the Nelson Chapel Baptist Church and offer two separate Associate in Arts degrees, Biblical Studies and Pastoral Ministries.
The employers and organizations attending the event varied tremendously. One of the organizations present at Tuesdays event was the Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition. Their focus was to introduce the types of jobs that cannot be acquired if one chooses to abuse alcohol or use drugs. An employee of the coalition elaborated that their mission was to discuss the harm and cost of substance abuse, but also the advantages of being a responsible member of the community.
Other career alternatives for students included representatives from the Tennessee National Guard. In addition to an elaborate display table, a recruiter for the Tennessee National Guard showed off a Contact Truck, which is a vehicle used by the guard for maintenance projects. The truck certainly appeared to be a favorite among the students attending the career fair. They were however not the only first responders in attendance. A representative from the Johnson County Rescue Squad had a display of emergency medical equipment and information for those interested in a career in medical services.
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