ABINGDON, Va. – Crystal Breeding, youth success manager for United Way of Southwest Virginia, welcomed approximately 4,500 seventh graders from 19 Southwest Virginia school districts to the first Ignite Career Expo for Youth since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Tuesday.
“We’re excited to have the restrictions and things lifted so we can have it in person again,” said Breeding who explained that the last live Ignite Career Expo was in 2019. “There’s just something about it, the interaction. You can talk to the kids.
Breeding stressed how important it is for seventh-graders, who are in the process of developing their academic career plans, to have an overview of all the different career paths available to them in the region. .
“Not all seventh graders know what they want to be when they grow up. But this experience could plant the seeds for them to get to high school,” Breeding said. their parents or their grandparents or relatives. There are a lot of these businesses that these kids have never seen before. It is very important for them to notice the options.
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For David Goodman, who teaches science at Union High School in Big Stone Gap, Va., being part of the Expo for the first time was a wonderful opportunity to share his love of science with kids who are just getting started. to explore their own passions, as well as introduce them to teaching as a possible career path.
“This is the time when they can really start to focus and reflect and pursue their passions and if they find something that relates to them like someone said, ‘Oh, I collect them’ or ‘Oh, my parents have a pet turtle,” “If you can relate to them in some way, they’ll remember it,” Goodman said. “I hope one day I will see them teaching alongside me.”
Forty-five local and regional businesses and organizations, from Food City to the Virginia Department of Transportation, set up booths at the 2022 Ignite Career Expo for Youth, which kicked off Tuesday and ends Wednesday.
Rob Arnold, Appalachian Power’s System Distribution Manager for Kingsport, Tennessee, explained how the company first got involved in the Expo. They focused their efforts on giving kids a window into the more practical side of what Appalachian Power employees do by hosting a pole climbing exercise, as well as a transformer lifting contest.
“We used to bring in a lot more equipment and so on, and then we’d bring in our tech group and show them how we design power lines and stuff. But, actually, the interesting piece was the more practical things,” Arnold said. “We focused on hoisting a transformer onto a pole. They can see, and you know it’s kind of a competition for them because they want to say, ‘yeah, I can ride this transformer.’ So they can do that, then they come here and they climb the poles.
Ridgeview High School senior Baylee Owens, who was at the Expo showing children how to curl and braid hair as part of her cosmetology class, recalled attending the Ignite Career Expo for Youth when she was in seventh grade and how she was drawn to cosmetology largely because of that experience.
“In seventh grade, I came to this one, and they had a cosmetology station, and that’s when I realized I kind of wanted to do hair,” Owens said. “It’s pretty awesome. I love it. But, I have a very good teacher.