When April Welch moved from Turlock Junior High School to Crowell Elementary to teach sixth grade, she brought her knowledge, teaching tools and one novel idea to the elementary school level: a Career Fair.
While college and career fairs are common enough at the high school and junior high level, Welch saw an opportunity to generate future-oriented thinking in elementary students as they prepare to make a pivotal shift in education and enter junior high school.
“We want to expose the kids to opportunities in the college and career or trade fields. Not everyone will go down the same path so we want them to see the options,” said Welch.
After performing research projects on various career paths consistent with new Common Core State Standards, the students then were visited by people in the industries which they researched. By collaborating with her fellow sixth grade instructors Scott Cortez and Erin Moreno, Welch brought a multitude of people to Crowell to share their experiences so that students could hear firsthand different perspectives from local professionals. The visitors rotated from room to room and included local dental hygienist Alicia Alemeida, registered nurse Jessica Jordan, Bike Works business owner Matt Nascimento, general manager Doug Welch, mayoral candidate Gary Soiseth and more.
“To see these kids at this age group ask smart questions, it’s very encouraging for the city of Turlock and our schools,” said Soiseth.
As a sixth grade student, Soiseth predicted he would pursue farming like his father; and while he is still involved in the industry, he found himself charting his own unique path that included obtaining a degree in public policy with an emphasis on agricultural affairs. Soiseth reflected on his own experience as he discussed with the sixth graders of Cortez’s class, not only basic legislative questions but complex problem solving issues that he faces. To illustrate his point, Soiseth took a class poll to see who is in favor of wearing school uniforms. With a divided response from the sixth graders, he weighed the pros and cons of the rule to illustrate the complicated issues legislators face at all political levels.
“There is no right or wrong answer. That is public policy,” said Soiseth.
To prepare for their Career Day students donned their professional clothing and were encouraged to ask thought-provoking questions, a testament to their preparedness to advance to junior high school. Aptly timed to occur during the end of the school year, students gained insight into various areas of study they may pursue as they prepare to enter the upper grades and beyond.
“They care so much, they all came dressed up and that is encouraging. There are a variety of college and career paths that they can take and that’s the ultimate goal, to get kids to think seriously about their options at an early age,” said Cortez.