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Career Path Fair inspires seventh-graders about their future

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About 500 area seventh-graders attended the inaugural Career Path Fair on March 15 at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus. Created by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and its Vision 2030 committee and hosted by UNG, the Career Path Fair is a collaborative initiative to introduce middle school students to potential career opportunities in Gainesville and Hall County.

A teacher, a lawyer and a large animal veterinarian are what Emma Metz, Amy Ibarra and Emma Griffin want to be when they grow up. Or, that's what the middle school students at Gainesville Middle School think now.

To help them find the correct classes to take in high school, the three girls, along with 500 other area seventh-graders, attended the inaugural Career Path Fair on March 15 at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus.

Created by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and its Vision 2030 committee and hosted by UNG, the Career Path Fair is a collaborative initiative to introduce middle school students to potential career opportunities in Gainesville and Hall County. The career pathways students choose now will help guide them with their plan of study in high school and beyond.

Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG's Gainesville Campus, compared the middle school students choosing a career pathway similar to college freshmen choosing a major.

"If they said they wanted to be a lawyer, we told them that they will have to go to college for four years and law school for three more years," Oates said. "Then they could decide if they wanted to go to school that long."

To accomplish this task, students chose four career pathways ranging from construction to health science. About 50 companies delivered presentations to students to expose them to the company's function, employee skillsets and school subjects related to the field.

"They talked to the students about the company, the courses they took to get into the field, and how it connected to that pathway," said Shelley Davis, vice president of existing industry at Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

For example, if a student wanted to be an electrician, he or she selected construction as a pathway. Then the students met with electricians from Cochran Brothers Electric Co. for an interactive lesson, Davis said.

Rhonda Samples, the career, technical and agricultural education director for Hall County Schools, explained allowing students to explore the different careers in a fun, interactive way helped them think about their future.

"The more we can expose students to different opportunities and jobs, the more informed choice they can make," she said.

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Gainesville Middle School students, from left, Emma Metz, Amy Ibarra and Emma Griffin attended the attended the inaugural Career Path Fair on March 15 at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus. They planned to attend sessions linked to their potential professions, including a teacher, lawyer and large animal veterinarian, respectively.

Amy, a 12-year-old Gainesville Middle School student, looked forward to discussing a law career with an attorney. She said after talking with the attorney, she would be certain about her career choice.

"I won't have to worry about (if I choose the wrong path) later," she said.

Kiara Mosley, unit director of the Teen Center of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier, also wanted students to focus on their potential and find a path to match it.

"Everyone has greatness inside of themselves," said Mosley, who opened the event with a motivational speech. "But it is up to you to own it."

Oates said this message and the Career Path Fair comes at an ideal time in a middle school student's life.

"Middle school is where you make lifestyle choices and start determining 'I like this and I don’t like that,'" Oates said. "They really evolve into who they are going to become."

Lexi Alexander, a 13-year-old World Language Academy student, plans to become an anesthesiologist, but she is keeping an open mind. World Language Academy is a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade dual-immersion school where students receive a portion of their instruction in English and Spanish. There are three locations, the main school is in Flowery Branch.

"I think if I learn more stuff about the profession, I will probably change it if I don't like it or have stronger feelings about being an anesthesiologist," she said. "So I think this event will broaden my horizons."

Oates hopes students' horizon will include a college education.

"We would love for them to decide to come to UNG. Moreover, we want them to consider a post-secondary education," Oates said. "It may be a partner in our technical system. But this is to get them started thinking about it."

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