By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “The only way to have fun is to interact with one another,” Melvin McNeal of DP Design in Davenport told eighth-graders from Scott County Catholic schools during a career fair March 9. The event was held in the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University.
Students from Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf and All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools in Davenport gathered for the daylong career fair, tours of the St. Ambrose campus and Mass. Father Thom Hennen, the university’s chaplain and diocesan vocations director, presided at the Mass.
Each student attended eight stations during the career fair that featured 33 community partners.
McNeal and his business partner and cousin, Devin Derrick, talked about their multimedia business that involves taking wedding photos, family photos and doing graphic design and printed items.
McNeal has a photojournalism degree and worked as a videographer for a local television station before going freelance, he told the students. That led him on the path to start his business. “We have grown over the 10 years we have been here.”
He told the students that they need to be self-motivated and totally committed if they want to be successful in starting and maintaining their own business. Students took turns taking photographs of each other with one of his cameras. When he began taking photos, he used black and white film. Today he and Derrick use digital cameras, drones, and other equipment for their business.
Lourdes school counselor Leigh Johnson said the career fair continues to grow after seven years. “The students get to experience different jobs and learn about different areas. Eighth-graders don’t necessarily know what they want to do in life, but this event plants seeds in their minds.”
Prior to the career fair, teachers at the four schools talked about different career clusters. They assigned students to career stations based on interests and to make sure that all community partners had students at their tables.
John F. Kennedy school counselor Ana Schott said this event wouldn’t happen without collaboration. “If we did this on our own it would not be the same. And our community partners might not want to go to four different schools. We are blessed that St. Ambrose hosts us and supports this event. It is awesome.”
Johnson said the various counselors have heard from several students who previously attended the career fair and are grateful they did. Some have chosen a career path because of the career fair, she said.
All Saints student Ellen Jardine enjoyed the career fair, especially the photography and attorney stations. “I am interested in art, so photography sounded fun. And I like helping others, so I thought being an attorney could be interesting.”
Mackenzie Whitlock from All Saints said she attended a station on teaching because that is what she would like to do in the future. She also enjoyed one on seeds and farming. St. Paul the Apostle’s Lukas Wislander liked the computer programming station. The presenter from Deere & Co. “showed us how to protect computers with technology and how to write some codes.” Fellow student Ian Fields said industrial engineering was his favorite station. He learned how industrial engineers design and redesign items to make them ready for the marketplace and to make sure they work properly.