Career Day at Parks introduces students to uncommon career paths
Students at Parks Middle School learned how working with pig ears can lead to success. They even had a chance to examine one up close.
The presentation was part of Career Day 2012 at Parks. And after a few seconds of shrieks and gasps, the students in Ms. Womack’s seventh grade class listened in amazement as nurse practitioner Tenita Foston explained how nursing and medical students learn how to apply stitches by practicing on pig ears. The pig ears are ideal for practice, because their thickness prevents tearing.
Foston is part of Emory Healthcare’s liver transplant team. Since most of the students had never heard of a nurse practitioner, Foston explained that a nurse practitioner is more advanced than a nurse, but not as advanced as a doctor. She added that they provide services very similar to those of a primary care physician, and are able to diagnose and treat a wide range of health problems.
This is just the kind of career option Parks counselors Barbara Santiago and LaTarsha McKie wanted their students to learn about—unfamiliar, yet viable careers that could lead to very successful futures.
Santiago and McKie have co-coordinated Career Day at Parks for the past few years. McKie says Parks is changing how it prepares students for the future; the focus is still on college and career readiness, but they have begun to think outside the box when it comes to careers. This year they solicited input from teachers and students. So when a student suggested that the school bring in a mortician for Career Day, Santiago and McKie reached out to Willie Watkins Funeral Home, and made it happen.
Parks students heard from a wide variety of other professionals, including a private detective, airline pilot, photographer, make-up artist, professor, fashion designer, city councilman, medical researcher, attorneys and entrepreneurs.
Retired Atlanta Falcons linebacker, Buddy Curry, spoke to Attica Landers’ eighth grade class. Landers –a lifelong Falcons fan—recognized the former defensive player of the year right away, but his students were not familiar with the legend. Nonetheless, they were very receptive to Curry’s message.
“I really enjoyed hearing his story,” said eighth grader Zaira Hudson. She was especially impressed with Curry’s admission that school he had always struggled in school, and that at 6’3”, 197 lbs the wannabe linebacker was flattened repeatedly when he started training camp in college.
“He was a big inspiration, because he kept trying and he never quit,” she said. “And he ended up graduating from college and playing for the Falcons.”
Parks principal Sherri Bennett stated, “We are focused on rebuilding the legacy of excellence at Parks, and giving students an opportunity to hear from such a talented and diverse group of speakers is a step in the right direction.”
Bennett believes that the Career Day presenters can provide the students with much more than job descriptions and accounts of their day to day tasks. She believes they can also motivate them.
A massage therapist from Zen Massage may have succeeded in doing just that. She offered students information about massage therapy and why she loves her work, but she also offered some very important information about herself.
“I’ve always loved science, but I didn’t love studying science, and I never wanted to become a scientist,” she said. “I was more interested in how the body is made, how it functions and how science helps move the body forward.”
And after she read that regular human touches extended the lives of babies born prematurely, she decided that she wanted to spend her life using the power of her touch to heal and help others.
When the presentation concluded, one student who sat quietly through the presentation asked Zen Massage owner, Mary LaBroi, “Why did you pick her to come talk to us?”
Cautious, LaBroi asked, “Why do you ask?”
“Because she’s good,” he answered.
Another student chimed in, “Yeah, she makes me want a massage.”
“She makes me want to be a massage therapist,” the quiet one responded.
This is perhaps the ultimate compliment for any professional speaking to a room full of adolescents on Career Day, and the ultimate nod of encouragement for any educator wondering if the students are getting the message.