It’s early on a warm spring day and I’m wondering how I can capture the hearts and minds of young kids at Weis Elementary School.
It’s career day and I got some stiff competition.
The Escambia County Health Department is handing out bright orange visors and army green backpacks emblazoned with the healthy message of the 5-2-1-0 campaign. That’s five fruits and vegetables, two hours of screen time, one hour of exercise and zero sugary drinks.
Right beside me the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ team is inflating a huge baseball toss exhibit.
How in the world am I to compete with the Pensacola Fire Department’s bright red fire engine or Pensacola Police Department’s cute, cuddly German Shepherd K-9’s?
Nonetheless, I pull out my traveling kit of fliers, cups and pens in anticipation of the rush of youthful exuberance to converge at my table.
Representing the Studer Community Institute, I was among nearly 20 organizations, agencies and businesses that took part in CareerSource Escarosa’s inaugural Career Day at Weis Elementary School.
CareerSource Escarosa is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the workforce needs of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Classified as one of the state’s 24 local workforce boards and a member of the CareerSource Florida Network, the agency provides employment and training resources for are job seekers and employers.
The purpose of the event is to help elementary school students begin to turn their dreams into goals by connecting them with local employers and sparking interest in jobs and careers in high-demand occupations.
I explained to them the Institute’s mission and vision of improving the quality of life and making Pensacola’s the world’s greatest place to live.
They learned that we want to assist parents in helping develop and build their young babies’ brains and get them ready to start kindergarten and lead productive, successful lives.
Between educational sessions at the vendor tables, the students dashed through an obstacle course, competed in sack races, swung hula hoops around their small waists and petted K-9s.
At the end of the day, the students attached tags to their shirts to identify the career they wanted to pursue. In the classroom, teachers will give them a survey to measure what they learned and the different employers they engaged with, said Weis Principal Holly Magee.
"This is amazing for out kids," Magee said. "They are so excited. Nobody was absent today and everyone got to school on time to be a part of this exciting day."
Career day is no longer just for middle or high school. Exposing children at a young age to the world of work can help broaden their perspective and spur them to more interesting and productive careers.
They get the opportunity to learn about different jobs in their surrounding community. Many of them could very well discover something new and exciting to aspire to be.
“It’s important to engage them when they’re young and get them interested in what they want to do early,” said Eric Flora, CareerSource Escarosa Department of Economic Opportunity Jobs & Benefits administrator. “We want to eventually duplicate this and make it portable.”
CareerSource Escarosa’s Dominique Maywald said she coordinated the event at Weis Elementary School on North Q Street because, as a community school in an impoverished neighborhood, it’s the perfect place to get young minds to thinking about future careers.
“We want to put some positive light on the area and show them a vision for the future,” said Maywald, Local Veterans Employment Representative. “We brought local employers to show them what’s out there for them.”
Maywald corralled nearly various organizations and businesses to participate in career day, including Regions Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Allstate Insurance and Studer Family Children’s Hospital.
Sheila Mitchell, volunteer for the Northwest Florida chapter of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, shared the importance of volunteerism while explaining the purpose of disaster preparedness.
“We want to plant the seed, especially the concept of volunteerism,” Mitchell said. “If we can get them at an early age they will look for opportunities to help others.”
Nikerria Anderson said her grandmother is a housekeeper but always wanted to be a nurse. So, she hopes to become a nurse to make her grandmother proud.
Career day gave her a chance to explore other careers and see other people who have made their dreams a reality.
The career day is for us to learn more about the different jobs and careers,” Nikerria said. “This shows me that I have to do well in school and not give up.”