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The two-day program, called JA Inspire, was held at Spring Branch Middle School, and included hundreds of eighth-graders from all SBISD middle school campuses, as well as KIPP Courage charter program students who are based at the Landrum campus. It was held Nov. 16 and 17.
JA Inspire is designed as an interactive, three-section rotating program for students to expose them to the great variety of local career and training, college and career-related opportunities available to them.
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Eighth-graders gathered inside the Spring Branch Middle auditorium to hear about the “soft skills” they will need to meet, greet and interview successfully. They also heard directly from adults working in a variety of fields about how they gained job opportunities and made a career choice during industry panel presentations.
Finally, dozens of local companies, higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations helped students ask questions and gain face-to-face information about their firms and organizations in a traditional career-fair setting inside the middle school gym.
“There is a perceived divide between education and the worlds of work so what we are trying to do here is work with districts, and with students and teachers, to build a bridge,” said Rick Franke, president of JA of Southeast Texas.
“JA Inspire builds a bridge between education and these young people as they prep for going to work. This helps kids understand that there really is a place for them out there. A lot of these students will go on to a four-year college, but it’s also very important for them to understand that there are many jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree,” he also said.
SBISD’s single-focused T-2-4 goal calls for district graduates to be prepared for a four-level set of opportunities – military training, technical certification, or a two- or four-year college degree. The career fair’s industry presentations, career station displays and focus on soft skills also supports high school endorsement tracks that are part of Texas House Bill 5.
"JA Inspire highlighted one of SBISD’s greatest strengths – our community’s investment in our students. The Collaborative Spirit of all partners helped create meaningful experiences for our students throughout these two days," said Abby Walker, district Coordinator for Strategic Partnerships and Volunteer Programs.
"This event was a unique opportunity for students to gain awareness and understanding of the various opportunities available to them, as well as begin to forge connections with local industry professionals – something that would not have been possible without the gift of our partners’ time, talent and treasure," she also said.
“We have so many opportunities and different openings in so many fields, it’s just crazy,” said Meoshe Hennesy with NRG Company, one of the businesses set up in the school gym. “We want to get them all prepared for college, and let them know that if you take four years to follow through, here’s the opportunities you have and how much you can make.”
Many working professionals counseled students to take more than annual salary or pay scale into consideration in what may be a major career and life choice.
“Think about who you are and what you are passionate about, not about how you’ll make a lot of money,” educator and artist Diane Rios said in one gathering. “I want you to know that wherever you come from, whatever you desire to do, that is really possible for you!”
Memorial Middle eighth-grader Zane Pramudji knows exactly what he wants to do. He aims to earn an engineering degree like his father, and add either a medical or electrical engineering degree onto his professional portfolio.
His father is an engineer and patent attorney. Zane has a patent pending. His mom has a medical degree.
“I think it’s important for schools to have career fairs like this because if they don’t we may have more people living at home with their parents,” he said. “It’s also real important that we all provide for ourselves and society.”
Valeria Justo of Northbrook Middle school has her college and career plan, too. “I would like to be an anesthesiologist. It would be an opportunity for me to have the medical career I want, and to make some money,” she said.
“This career fair gives us options and helps us all prepare for the future,” she adds.
JA Inspire is presented by:
- Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP
- Offshore Technology Conference
- Spectra Energy
- Quanta Services
- JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas
- CenterPoint Energy
- Community Health Choice
- Chick-fil-A at I-10 and Silber Rd.
- Amec Foster Wheeler
- Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America
- HR Houston Human Resource Management Association