Between tree growing, horseback riding, sports marketing, construction, coding, computer programming and more, eighth-graders who participated in the Middle School Career Exploration event each discovered jobs they never wanted. had never heard of before.
Nearly 500 middle school students from across Lane County participated in Connected Lane County’s three-day event this week.
Lizzie Brown, program manager for Connected Lane County’s Elevate and Navigate programs, said a total of about 30 local businesses and nonprofits set up booths with representatives to speak to students. Several kiosks offered interactive exercises to attract students’ attention and encourage them to ask questions.
“It’s a really fun and engaging way for young people to better understand what’s in their backyard and in their community,” Brown said. “It went incredibly well.”
Connected Lane County is a mission-driven organization working to improve outcomes for underserved youth in Lane County. It has three main programs – Spark, Navigate and Elevate – all focused on helping young people succeed and creating opportunities for career exploration by connecting students to resources. The group is aimed at young people from college to young adults.
Now in its fourth year, the annual Middle School Career Exploration event was held at Spark on the 7th in downtown Eugene. There were 10 school districts represented, many of whom came from rural areas where they have little opportunity to attend career opportunities outside of their hometown.
“We know that in a lot of our rural communities there isn’t a ton of industry,” Brown said. “It’s really important that we cultivate these experiences for them so that it’s convenient for the industry and for schools to bring their kids for an hour and a half.”
Kendra Anderson, a social studies teacher at Creswell Middle School, said that each year after the exploration, students would talk about it for weeks.
“It’s a lot of jobs that they can see that they might not know about, and it’s hard for us to teach because we’re not doing those jobs,” Anderson said. “They see the businesses that are in our area of Creswell, but they don’t see all the different businesses that are out of town. Also sometimes it’s the first time they’ve come out of school and done something. educational thing, especially with COVID.”
Many students were surprised to see so many different careers represented. While it’s still early days for most to choose a real career, Brown said it’s important to get them thinking about their future early.
“(He) ideally plants the seed earlier in their K-12 upbringing on what interests them, what really doesn’t interest them, so they can make more informed decisions,” Brown said. “If they’re about to get into a high school with CTE programs through technical education programs, we want them to know in ninth grade that it’s an interest for them so they can put themselves on the right track and waste no time.”
She added that throughout high school, these students can then return to participate in Connected Lane County programs, including job shadowing, mentoring and internships. Connected Lane County regularly hosts events open to the public and details can be found on its website calendar, connectedlane.org/events. For example, on November 30, Spark on 7th and the Cottage Grove Community Center host the monthly Wonder Wednesday, which teaches young people essential life skills.
Leave a lasting impact
A corporate representative at the fair realized he had a personal connection to Connected Lane County.
Emilio Ziolkowski, a 20-year-old student who works full-time for the Eugene Emeralds, recognized Brown and made the connection that she created her first side job opportunity with the Emeralds in 2019.
Ziolkowski said the brief shadow at work left a lasting impact on him and the company itself. When he applied for a job ahead of the 2022 baseball season, they recognized his name from that job shadow. Today, he is promoted to director of ticketing.
“I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, if I hadn’t made the connections at the time,“ Ziolkowski said.
He said there was a lot of competition for the job he applied for, but Emeralds workers remembered his long-standing interest in the company.
Ziolkowski is currently completing his bachelor’s degree online at Western Governors University, and he plans to apply for his master’s degree in sports marketing at the University of Oregon.
Ziolkowski, who grew up in the Pleasant Hill School District, said these early opportunities for career exploration are important for children to help them determine their future, especially for students in rural districts. Growing up outside the metropolitan area can restrict careers, he said.
“It’s important for those kids who maybe don’t see (this) in their garden every day,” Ziolkowski said. “Connected Lane County has done a really, really good job of focusing on rural schools that may not have the same opportunities and connections.”
Brown is the one who personally connected Ziolkowski to the shadow of working with Ems. When he approached her with his discovery, it was a “looping moment” for her.
“I had goosebumps for about two hours,” Brown said. “I am simply overwhelmed by how even the slightest touch – when I think of the range of our programs and the intensity of a course, it makes sense to me that after a course a young person can going to work for that company But hearing that even a one-time three-hour job shadowing, which we do hundreds of each year, impacted a young person so much that it changed the trajectory of his life and his career, his education.’ TO DO.
“It’s just totally invigorating, and it’s lit our fires, and it makes me really, really excited.“
Miranda Cyr reports on education for The Register-Guard. You can contact her at email@example.com or find her on Twitter @mirandabcyr.