College and Career Pathways: Exploration helps narrow field
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Taking advantage of a wide range of college and career exploration programs can help students narrow their potential fields of study or job goals – and not always in the way they expect.
Learning more about an area of interest is often as useful in eliminating an option as it is in continuing to pursue an educational or occupational track, a crucial component of Georgia’s College and Career Pathways initiative.
“When career focus is the aim, students will make decisions not to pursue some occupations based on those varied educational experiences,” Whitlock added. “Students will sometimes change their occupational goals just because they chose to focus on multiple career options while in school. That choice to eliminate an occupation from among the options is incredibly valuable. That choice alone saves a student time and money when the student chooses post-secondary education opportunities.”
And while transportation and financial limitations prevent some students from taking advantage of pricier or more distant opportunities, plenty of exploration is local and either free or low-cost, according to Nora Ann Wood, career counselor at CEC. In fact, Wood said, more than 50 colleges, universities and schools will assemble in one place for the sole purpose of bringing information directly to local high-schoolers as CEC holds its annual College Probe Fair and Open House Oct. 1 from 6-8 p.m.
“It’s completely free, so it would be a shame not to take advantage and make those networking connections,” Wood said.
In addition to career exploration offered through the Coweta County School System’s dual-enrollment and internship programs, counselors at Coweta high schools can provide information on many extracurricular programs in concentrated areas of study.
For some local students, summer programs can be life-changing.
Emily Ammon, Senior, East Coweta High
Selected for Mercer University’s Pharmacy Scholars Summer Program, Emily Ammon believes she found her calling as a medical services liaison (MSL) there.
“I always wanted to go into health care,” said Ammon, who considered careers as a veterinarian, a doctor and a nurse until her research uncovered a bald truth: Her personality is incompatible with either.
“I’m not a bedpan kind of person,” Ammon admitted.
The fact that she’s “pretty good at chemistry” led Ammon’s father to suggest a pharmacy career, which led to the three-day program at the Mercer School of Pharmacy in Atlanta. Speakers talked about many different aspects of the pharmacy industry, but Ammon was enthralled with the presentation by an MSL – a job that requires travelling through an assigned region educating doctors on how to use medications.
“You have to know every single thing about a medication,” Ammon said. “That would be the hardest thing about it. But I love traveling and meeting new people.”
During the program, Ammon took a field trip to DeKalb Medical Center, where program sponsor Walgreen’s has both hospital pharmacy and public pharmacy locations. There, students toured the hospital pharmacy and patient rooms, watched the actual manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and even tried their hands at making topical creams for rashes and mixing the proper dosage of pain medication for an imaginary 5-year-old patient.
“We had a chart to follow, and we actually had to crush up meds,” Ammon said. “We had to calculate the amounts and measure, and we had to pay attention very closely to what we were are doing.”
And while she intends to pursue a career as an MSL and hopes to attend Mercer, Ammon said she’s not finished exploring possible occupations – in fact, she’d like to be an actress someday.
“I’m open for anything,” she said.
Derrick Hunter, Senior, Newnan High
Derrick Hunter understands a future career in international business – ideally, headquartered in France – requires an toolbox full of leadership skills, so he headed to Boston for a week at Harvard College as part of the People to People Leadership Ambassador Program.
Nearly 30 countries were represented at the summer leadership conference, giving Hunter a unique opportunity to experience a variety of cultures, traditions and work styles.
“I learned how to be a proper role model, and met a lot of interesting people,” Hunter said of the program, which included group activities, small breakout sessions and an action plan based on the theme “Step Forward.”
“When presented with a challenge, you need to be the person to step forward and take charge, take a leadership role,” said Hunter, who formatted an action plan to start a hockey camp for underprivileged children in Columbus.
Hunter, who keeps in touch via social media with many of his fellow People to People participants, said Kennesaw State University is his first choice for studying the accounting side of international business – with a French minor, of course. He recommends exploration like his Harvard program to fellow students.
“It’s just a great experience,” Hunter said. “You get to expand your horizons and see new things, meet interesting people...the skills you learn will better the workplace and, hopefully, better the world.”
At the September meeting of the Coweta County Board of Education, Teacher Pipeline director Dr. Susan Mullins introduced four current interns, all seniors at Coweta County high schools.
“Each intern was part of a group last year that had a classroom instructional experience as a teacher’s assistant,” Mullins said. “During this school year, their internships will vary from working in a classroom to working in administrative departments for the purpose of understanding the business of the school system and its organization. Interns also must participate in service learning projects throughout the school year and possibly during the summer.”
Mallory Cumbie, a member of the Spivey Hall Tour Choir for a number of years, her summer touring the United Kingdom with the choir. Cumbie’s work primarily has been with the United Way Parent as Teachers (PAT) Program.
Another PAT volunteer, Jordan Collis is a human resources intern at the Jackson Street Board of Education office, was chosen to participate in the Governor’s Honors Spanish program at Valdosta State University, where she chose education as her minor course of study. She is dual-enrolled this year at West Georgia Technical College at CEC, earning college credit while she completes high school.
Carly Duke spent time in Louisiana over the summer, helping fellow church volunteers rebuild a children’s center. Duke is interning in a first-grade classroom at Northside Elementary School, and fellow Teacher Pipeline intern Katie Cann was in Florida volunteering with her youth group at a children’s cancer hospital before returning to school and her work in the CCSS.
One of the Coweta County School System’s oldest career exploration programs, Teacher Pipeline has been solidly in place for more than a decade. Internships provide students with classroom time and opportunities to shadow administrators, putting future educators in a position to fully understand what the jobs entail.
It’s a make or break proposition for every Teacher Pipeline intern.
“Internships assist students with understanding the educational requirements to enter the career, the entry-level skills and work ethic necessary to obtain employment after training,” said Dr. Susan Mullins, who directs the program. “During an internship, a young person can gauge his true interest in investing the money and time into the appropriate training to enter his chosen career field.”
And sometimes, to rule out a career path.
“There is value in allowing students to complete internships and to discover that the career they once believed was their choice is really an area that they no longer want to pursue,” Mullins said.