By Curt Yeomans
Students at Hawthorne Elementary School witnessed a police car chase and a classmate being handcuffed on April 4.
They also got to see a human skull a few feet away from other pupils who pretended to strut down an imaginary cat walk.
The displays were part of the school's annual career fair.
More than 20 professionals and Producing Excellence That Always Leads to Success ( P.E.T.A.L.S.) members were on hand for the event.
Fourth- and fifth-grade female students, members of P.E.T.A.L.S., were trying to pitch their fictional companies to their classmates.
"We let the students participate in, and learn about the careers they might be interested in so they can find out what it takes to get those jobs," said Dr. Katrina Pittman, one of the school's counselors and coordinators of the career fair.
The representatives ranged from talent agency Model Productions, to the Clayton County Police Department, to Dr. Alisa Griffin, a laboratory educator at Spelman College who allowed students to view a human skull, as well as various deceased insects and small animals which were preserved in jars filled with a water-based preservative called Ward Safe.
"I liked the scientist because when animals die, the scientist goes out and finds them so they can be put in a jar," said Jessica Molina, a fourth-grader at the school.
The school had two law enforcement representatives at the career fair. Clayton County Police Department spokesperson Officer Sonja Sanchez talked about what the police must do to keep people safe. She and the students watched a video of a car chase recorded by a police cruiser dashboard camera.
"Watch this. Bam! Pretty cool, huh?" Sanchez asked the students as they watched the chase conclude with the police cruiser slamming into the fleeing vehicle.
At the next table, Georgia State Patrol Safety Education Unit member Cpl. Daniel Fagan demonstrated some the tools used to subdue criminals, handcuffs and baton.
The students pleaded with Fagan to show off his gun, but he refused to take the weapon out of its holster.
"I do these kinds of presentations all the time, and the gun is always the most popular item kids want to see, followed by the handcuffs," the state patrolman said. "Hopefully, at least one child will see this presentation and be convinced to do the right thing."
Fagan gave in to pleas from the students to use the handcuffs, though. He handcuffed one of the wrists of second-grader Sean Legreaux, but didn't tighten it because he didn't want to hurt the child.
"It didn't hurt, but when I become a big kid, it will probably hurt," Legreaux said.
This year was the first time the career fair also included members of P.E.T.A.L.S., who gave presentations on the companies they formed for a group project.
Fifth-grade teacher Etorsha Reese, the group's sponsor, said P.E.T.A.L.S. members were invited by the school's administration to participate in the career fair after the students gave presentations last month at the school.
"Everything has worked out great this year," said Nina Endow, a school counselor and a coordinator of the career fair. "The kids are having a good time, and the speakers are enjoying themselves as well."