By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – Eighth-grade students from Scott County Catholic schools attended a career fair March 23 to learn about options and how to begin preparing for their future once they enter high school.
Guidance counselors from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf and All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools in Davenport had been working on the career fair idea since September.
Meecheeca McNeal, counselor at All Saints Catholic, spearheaded the idea. She said every month the four counselors get together to trade ideas. “We wanted to spice up the curriculum. We never hosted a career fair before, so I asked about their interest in having one. They liked it.”
In December, a letter was sent to eighth-graders’ parents asking them to consider having their company or a business they work for represented at the career fair.
“We had a bigger response than we hoped for,” McNeal said.
After presenters confirmed their commitment to participate, students completed a survey to identify their top 12 choices, said Counselor Leigh Johnson of Lourdes Catholic School.
Denning Hall at St. Paul the Apostle Parish served as the host site. Johnson said she was impressed with the presenters’ setups. Some included posters, informational materials and giveaways such as pens, pencils and rubber bracelets.
Counselor Jennifer Bakener of St. Paul the Apostle said the presenters “put a lot of work into the presentations and were very professional.”
Counselor Anna Schott of John F. Kennedy said for a first-year event it went very well. “The kids were engaged and excited.” Her only disappointment was that a few presenters did not show up, even after confirming twice they would attend. “Beyond that, I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”
Among the presenters were Deacon Frank Agnoli, Father Thom Hennen and Sister Anthony, who were available to talk about vocational calls to the permanent diaconate, priesthood and religious life. Pastoral Associate Susan Stanforth and religious education volunteer Laurie Bribriesco, both of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, talked about opportunities available within parishes on a paid and volunteer level.
Molli Hermiston, leadership experience manager with Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, told students about opportunities available in a variety of fields. She explained how she plans events for the Girl Scouts throughout the council area.
Heather Kimbro of Genesis Health Systems talked about emergency room nursing. She noted that both women and men can be nurses and described what nurses do in the emergency department. She pointed to pictures showing different aspects of the emergency room and even had an IV bag on display.
Adrian Blackwell, who works in resident services at Rock Island Housing Authority in Rock Island, Ill., told students he has a sociology background and came to his job to help residents succeed, overcome obstacles, earn their GED and find an avenue toward success. “My job is to help them move out of public housing.”
Johnson said presenters told students what type of degree they may need for a future career in a particular industry so that they can start planning in high school what classes to take to prepare for college.
The school counselors would like to make the career fair an annual event, but hope to find a site to accommodate all students at one time. Because of limited space, St. Paul the Apostle and Lourdes students attended the career fair in the morning and All Saints and John F. Kennedy in the afternoon.
“It was fun! We got to learn about new things and what job opportunities you might want to have,” said Kyle Boldt of Lourdes. Fellow classmate Emma Behymer said it was “neat to see all the jobs that are available in this area.” And Mary Rolf said it was “surprisingly fun!”
Annie Wooff of St. Paul the Apostle said she is looking at becoming a physical therapist. She has been involved in several different sports. After an injury she attended physical therapy classes and “fell in love with it.”