Members of a local chapter of the Technology Student Association present an etching machine during Clayton County Public Schools’ CTAE College and Career Expo. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
RIVERDALE — Maygan Hooper’s inflective voice and bright smile demonstrated her excitement for all things science-related.
The 20-year-old greeted high school students as they passed by her booth at Drew High during Saturday’s College and Career Expo, sponsored by Clayton County Public Schools’ Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Department.
Hooper is a sophomore computer science major at Clayton State University. She represented the university as president of its student-led Women Interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics organization.
Her goal was to encourage other young people to consider pursuing STEM-related careers.
Hooper gave Ayanna Eady, a sophomore at Morrow High, the benefit of her experience in moving from California to pursue a career in nursing informatics.
Eady, 15, was an eager participant in the brief discussion they held in the gymnasium. She said she enjoys math.
About 250 people turned out in the first couple of hours of the event — twice as many as attended last year’s college and career expo, said Andrea Johnson, coordinator of the college and career expo.
“Our objective is to expose the community to the programs we have in Clayton County,” said Johnson, who is also a CTAE teacher at Morrow Middle.
She taught some of the district’s more than 5,000 middle schoolers enrolled CTAE connections courses last year.
CTAE Coordinator Eboni Chillis added the district offers 16 of the Georgia’s 17 career clusters for high school students.
She said many of those clusters and pathways were represented in the expo including Clayton State University, Gordon State College and Albany State University as well as some school-level programs such as culinary arts.
Chilllis said the expo offered an opportunity for parents and students to interact and expand their first-hand knowledge of potential career paths.
“It helps students really hone in on their soft skills,” she said. “Interviewing, speaking with vendors, networking — it exposes them to presenting themselves as the next pool of students who will be entering the global market place.”
Chillis said students are asked to be progressively career-minded as early as elementary school, when they are exposed to “career visualization.” The visualization comes in many forms such as career days and truck days when youngsters learn what types of careers exist and what professionals in those careers actually do.
By middle school, students are exploring careers. She said career preparation follows in high school where students enroll in classes that pertain to health care, technology, agriculture and food industries.
Chillis said the school CSI-effect in that students are increasingly interested in careers in law and justice. Nursing and health care pathways are popular pursuits also.
Many of the CTAE students are getting first-hand experiences working or interning part-time with area businesses as part of the district’s work-based learning program.
Youth Apprenticeship Specialist Greg Guhl said the work-based learning program, just as Saturday’s expo, works in tandem with the department’s objective focused on “career, education and connection.”
“We want to connect students and their parents with education options in high school courses as well as college courses, and we want to connect them with career options,” said Guhl.