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Mapleton eighth graders prepare for the futures at career expo

Mapleton eighth graders looked toward their professional futures on Nov. 10 at the Adams County Commissioners’ 8th Grade Career Expo, hosted at Denver’s National Western Complex. The event offered students the chance to meet with representatives from a variety of companies, organizations, and higher education institutions to get them thinking about life after high school long before they graduate.

Though it looked like a trade show, organizers asked more of its young guests, as each booth interaction resembled a job interview. Students completed a career interest survey in advance and worked with teachers to prepare for the meetings.

At Meadow Community School, to prepare for the fair, teachers shared basic, but important lessons on how students should conduct themselves in interviews, from using good eye contact and firm handshakes to asking the right questions about what a job entails. Later, the students practiced introductions with other adults in the building. Jeannine Stout, a Meadow Community School English teacher, said it was the first time some of her students had heard tips like these.

“This is very new to some students, but we want them to present themselves in a way that they can be proud of,” she said.

Students talk to an electrical expert

Staff at Global Intermediate Academy (GIA) held a mock career expo a week before the actual event, where their students met with Mapleton staff and professionals such as attorneys, software engineers and an electric quality inspector, who all volunteered their time.

Camila P., a GIA eighth grader, was impressed by Mapleton’s Spanish translator and interpreter, who helps people, like students’ parents or guardians, who can’t understand English. Camila said she is interested in a career where she can support people in her own way, possibly in the medical field.   

“I want to pick a career that makes me happy, but I also want a job where I can help other people, like a nurse or doctor,” she said. “My uncle has cancer and it's hard. I want to help people going through the same thing as that, help them through their pain.”

Nao Vang, GIA culture coach, said this practice, and the expo, were important to open his students’ minds to new possibilities.

“We want to stir an interest and expose them to ideas they weren’t considering because some might have a low ceiling for themselves,” he said. “There’s two sets of people we care about, the students now and who they will become five, 10, 20 years from now, and we don’t want them to settle.”

A student talks with a nurse at a career expo

The actual expo was crowded, with more than 5,000 eighth graders from Adams County’s school districts participating throughout the day. Booths were grouped in career clusters which included everything from agriculture to public safety and STEM fields. Students were required to meet with three business professionals and at least one continuing education representative, and employers rated the students who demonstrated the best professionalism.

True to her word, Camila searched out the health sciences cluster and talked with nurses from an organization that supports nurses. She learned that the field can be hard, and that there is a nursing shortage because of COVID, but the nurses still enjoyed their work. Camila is now even more motivated to pursue a medical career.

“Hopefully when I graduate, I plan on doing that,” she said. “I see myself succeeding and not giving up on my dreams.”