CPS 8th graders get 'Inspired' at JA Fair (Cranston Herald)

By JEN COWART

Last week students from the Cranston Public Schools’ eighth grades traveled to the Providence Convention Center to participate in a huge career fair designed to help inspire their future paths. The Junior Achievement of Rhode Island’s interactive Inspire Career Fair saw 4,500 8th-grade students from schools across the state over two days’ time on December 5 and 6, with Park View and Bain visiting on Wednesday and Hope Highlands and Western Hills visiting on Thursday. The students had approximately 90 minutes to peruse over 100 booths, which included hands-on demonstrations, opportunities to speak with those in various careers including those in the trades industry.

Also on hand were a number of high schools, career and technical centers, and colleges. For many of the middle school students, it was the first opportunity they had to explore the public and charter school options available to them beyond those in their local areas. Prior to attending the event, the CPS students spent several of their advisory blocks completing lessons and career interest surveys in preparation for the event. Those activities allowed them to narrow down their interests and gave them a road map of sorts to use when they arrived at the career fair. The activities also introduced the students to 22 national career clusters and highlighted Rhode Island’s high-wage/high-demand clusters as identified by the Governor's Workforce Board and RealJobsRI.

The program sponsors of the fair included Junior Achievement, the Warren Alpert Foundation, the Governor’s Workforce Board, PrepareRI, the Rhode Island Foundation, MetLife Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Cox Business, KPMG and Channel 10 NBC.

Upon arrival the career fair, students were able to watch a video from Governor Gina Raimondo and listen to a brief introductory speech from Adam Compton from the Junior Achievement board as they were encouraged to ask questions, explore educational pathways and careers, and to have fun while doing so.

“You are in for a treat this morning,” said Compton. He asked the students how often they are asked what they did at school, and how often they just say, “nothing.”

“Today is going to be one of those days where you are going to have a lot to talk about at the end of it, and it’s very possible that there are going to be some moments, some conversations that you’ll possibly remember for the rest of your lives. What we have planned for you at JA Inspire is an hour and a half of visiting with over 100 different groups made up of companies, schools, groups and associations of all different kinds. Really all they’re going to do today is tell you about their days and their careers and how they use their minds and talents to do things that are very fulfilling to them. You’re going to get a chance to see all of that.”

Each student was given a workbook and a passport of sorts where the students could collect stamps from the exhibitors, an exercise designed to give students interaction with a variety of different career clusters.

Cranston was well-represented as exhibitors with students from several of Cranston Area Career and Technical Center’s (CACTC) pathways programs, including JROTC, Aquaculture, Interactive Digital Media, and Graphic Communications. Also on hand were staff and students from the New England Laborers’ Cranston Public Schools Construction and Career Academy (NEL/CPS).

“It’s very interesting to see all of the other career and technical schools here,” said Cranston West senior Arianna Deal, a third-year CACTC student presenter at the Interactive Digital Media booth. “It’s interesting to see the same program we have here, and how they do things there.”

There were lines at many of the booths that had hands-on demonstrations and giveaways and several were particularly popular, including the first responder area where students had the opportunity to gear up in firefighter gear, any of the culinary booths where food samples were being prepared and sampled, the Green Industry booth where there were baby goats, a healthcare booth where students could try out their CPR skills on dummies, and the Channel 10 green screen area where students could practice being on the air.

Hope Highlands eighth-grader Andie Whitcomb attended the event and said that it allowed her to consider additional future ambitions as well as new opportunities for schools outside of Cranston.

“I enjoyed the JA trip because it allowed us to get more of an inside view of what these jobs are and how to take part in these jobs. Furthermore, after going, I went to many stations, I got a new idea on what I would like my profession to be,” she said. “I liked the JM Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Bank of America and Cranston Area Career and Tech Center the best. From the JM Walsh School, I became more interested in the arts for a job, which was not something I was interested in before.”

Drew Evans, a Western Hills Middle School student enjoyed his experience as well and said, "I had so much fun on this field trip. This will help me find a new career path and I wish I could go back to learn more." 

Meg Geoghegan