Finding the Path for the Future

Young Explorers
Posted on 10/25/2018
Image of College and Career Showcase(Theresa Cottom Bennett writing for Beacon Journal)

On Wednesday, nearly 1,500 Akron eighth-graders spent an afternoon deciding what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

With their options spread out before them in a maze of booths at Quaker Station, the young teens had free range to explore their future options at Akron Public Schools’ second annual College and Career Showcase.

The showcase ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for students and then from 4-6 p.m. for parents, to provide a taste of what to expect from the different pathways offered by the upcoming College and Career Academies (CCA), which roll out to all high schools in the district next year.

The showcase was a chance for students to choose which pathway to pursue, though the decision isn’t as dire as it sounds — students don’t need to decide until their freshman year, and they can change their minds at least once throughout their high school career.

However, there is an element of urgency. Open enrollment in the district runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, meaning families have a little more than a month to decide which high school their kids will attend. All students have a reserved seat at the school in their neighborhood cluster, but they aren’t guaranteed a spot anywhere outside of that.

Some knew right away that their home school would be the better — and easier — option. Joshua Ledbetter, an eighth-grader at Litchfield Community Learning Center, knew even before the showcase that he would be pursuing a music pathway at Firestone high school.

“All my friends are there,” Joshua explained. Plus, he said, he’s on his way to pursuing a career in music, as he already plays saxophone and bass.

But others were left with a choice to make in the 45 minutes they had to meander the event’s nearly 60 booths.

Students didn’t go into the event blind. Last month, they took evaluations to gauge what they enjoy, what kind of learners they are and what career options might be the best fit for them.

Then, students got a “passport to their future” that they filled out with the top four options they wanted to visit the day of the showcase, said Beth Winter, the College and Career Academies’ coordinator of partner engagement.

Each booth had interactive activities to give students a brief, hands-on experience that would be involved in that career path. At the commercial and residential construction and masonry booth, students filled in a mosaic with tiles and grout. At the sports medicine booth, students got in a short workout. At the product and fashion design booth, students designed a textile with crayon.

The animal studies booth had a rat and a ferret, the latter of which Ellet science teacher Ann Rose cradled as her current students presented to a group of interested cohorts.

“Who here loves animals?” asked Emanual Rogers, a senior who takes the animal studies classes already offered at Ellet. “You have to be able to handle animals. The rat, you can’t be scared of it.”

“It does get pretty hard, I’m not going to lie,” added junior Nathan Eddleman as he outlined the challenges that come with the pathway.

Many of the future paths were built off existing programs in the high schools, so the booths had veteran students who could talk about their experiences there. Each booth also had a teacher or career professional. The presenters kept it real with the students, discussing the skills learned in the path, the careers that are possible with it and what to expect when pursuing it.

After her 10 minutes at the animal studies booth, Litchfield eighth-grader Dakota Cooper decided she wanted to break out of her cluster and pursue the program at Ellet.

“I think animals are really interesting ... I want to pursue it,” said Dakota, 13. “I think this was helpful.”

But even for those who hadn’t decided by the end of the event, Kelly Dine, the biomedical science program instructor at North, offered a bit of advice: “You’re in eighth grade. You may change your mind a million times.”

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