JSU among vendors advising JPS 9th-graders at Career Exploration Fair

Jackson Public Schools ninth-graders attend a career fair hosted by United Way Central Area and supported by Jackson State University. (Photo by Spencer L. McClenty/JSU)

Jackson Public Schools ninth-graders attend a career fair hosted by United Way Central Area and supported by Jackson State University. (Photo by Spencer L. McClenty/JSU)

Glynnis Pleasant Byline“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” appeared to have been a recurring theme by vendors such as Jackson State University at a Career Exploration Fair by United Way of the Capital Area that targeted ninth-graders in the Jackson Public School System.

Vendors aimed to inspire teenagers to start early in considering their careers. The event was held Wednesday, Nov. 15, and impacted about 2,200 students. The teenagers were greeted by representatives from JSU, including the Sonic Boom, JSU Chorale and MADDRAMA Performance Troupe. The career fair was held in the Downtown Convention Complex.

The objective of the event was to provide a direct avenue for high school freshmen in JPS to explore a variety of careers.

Kimberly Hilliard, executive director for JSU’s Office of Community Engagement, was one of the several people from the university in attendance and was able to provide more information on JSU’s importance.

“JSU partnered with United Way’s new program Jackson Alignment, which is geared toward bringing additional community resources into Jackson Public Schools. They created the Career Exploration Fair four years ago. They are asking ninth-graders to really dream and expand upon their thoughts about what career they want to go into. They’re thinking this methodology will lead to higher graduation rates at the high school level. We want our JPS students to see a pathway from JPS to JSU. We’re right here at their backdoor, and we are a premier institution.”

MESHONYA Wren-Coleman, director of JSU’s First-Year Experience in Undergraduate Studies, works closely with the freshmen on campus. Wren-Coleman provided information on JSU’s interaction with ninth-graders.

“We’re asking students in attendance why it’s important to attend college and what type of career they plan to choose. We’re letting teens know that Jackson State can help them pursue any career, and we’re here to help them.” She said the most asked questions involved ACT scores and where JSU is located. “It’s important for JSU to be here. There are nine stations representing JSU and a hype room with various acts.”

“We want our JPS students to see a pathway from JPS to JSU. We’re right here in the backdoor, and we are a premier institution.” — Dr. Kimberly Hilliard, executive director of JSU’s Office of Community EngagementThe Career Exploration Fair provided an opportunity for students to explore career choices by interacting with local professionals. Students engaged in interactive activities with professionals that connected the relevance of their goals with their studies.

It’s believed that ninth grade is a pivotal year to engage students about career choices even as some freshmen may fail to realize the importance of every year of high school. Along with identifying the relevance of goals and studies, the fair also promoted workforce development, economic development, college readiness and career readiness.

Nikki McCelleis of United Way of the Capital Area said she believes the event allows students to explore potential careers. McCelleis said, “It is great to partner with institutions of higher learning as well as exhibitors and corporate and community partners.”

She also recognized nonprofit organizations in attendance. “It’s a great opportunity to convene everybody and expose students to careers that they might not otherwise be exposed to.”

Teachers from JPS also participated.

ANITA Johnson, a Wingfield High School ninth-grade teacher, shared why she felt the event was important. “We need to get children exposed to different careers and let them know about opportunities that they will have by attending events such as these. If we don’t show them, then they won’t know.”

She said students have an assignment attached to this event. They must write different essays about what they’ve learned, whom they networked with, and how they will use the information in the future.

Bonnie Jackson, a professor in the department of mass communication, gave her view on why it is vital to target ninth-graders and their understanding of the media.

“In ninth grade they need to know what we offer in an era of fake news. They need to know that we take the profession seriously and that the truth is more important than trying to earn a position or becoming president. The truth governs everything we do.”

In addition, she said, “We want to educate them about journalism as a critical part to a functioning democracy. In an era of selfies, they love the camera. However, we actually have students running from the camera here. So, we’re coaxing them and helping them become comfortable with being on camera. They’re young; they’re curious; and they’re interested in school.”

Jasmine Russell, a University Ambassador for JSU, provided insight on the importance of the event from students’ perspectives.

“The kids have been having a great time. We’ve been stressing the fact that it’s important to go to college. Get a degree. Have a career. Do something you love, not just make money. And remember to give back to your community. … Kids want to know whether college is difficult. We tell them that you have to attend class. Study and apply yourself. College is lot different from high school. You will have more freedom, so prepare yourselves because you won’t have your parents around.”