Expo helps eighth graders get jump start on college, careers

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - While college is not in everyone's future, a paycheck is, and there are many ways to earn it. More than 100 businesses and community groups across South Mississippi have come together to create an event to help guide students toward a career goal. It's an event just for eighth graders.

Many Biloxi Junior High students aren't waiting until they get to high school to start thinking about what they want to do after graduation.

"If we start early, then they'll have an idea. College bound, workforce, military, whatever the avenue they want to take," said Cheryl Johnson, Biloxi Jr. High School Counselor.

School counselors, principals, and teachers gathered in Biloxi Tuesday to learn about the first "Pathways2Possibilities Career Expo" in Biloxi.

"A group of us that are very passionate about education saw an opportunity to make the real world come to life for eighth graders, not just come to life for that day, but to possibly change their entire lives. And how they think about school and how they think about their future. And it was very exciting," said Paige Roberts, P2P Co-Coordinator.

The event will help guide eighth graders along the path toward the job they'd like to pursue. More than 6,000 eighth graders are expected to take part in interactive activities related to their pathways or career clusters. They can explore all sorts of career options that they have never considered before.

"For us it's really good, because we don't have a career center as the public schools do. So this will be a wonderful opportunity for our students," said Liz Wilkinson, St. Patrick Catholic High School Counselor.

The goal is to change the way people think about education.

"Too often in this country, we have focused on a target of a degree, and we need to target a job and a career," said Roberts. "Instead of continuing to put a square peg in a round hole, we are encouraging kids to decide where their talents are. Where their interests are, and what is the right path step by step to get there."

The first step is to start planning before they get to high school. That way, they can take courses that connect to their career choices. Organizers hope the move will help reduce the dropout rate.

"Students have more relevance. They understand better why they're studying this math or why they're reading about the past in history. And therefore, they'll stay in school and that's our hope," said Roberts.

The "Pathways2Possibilities Career Expo" is set for November 13 and 14 at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center. The Jackson County Civic Action Committee and America's Promise Alliance are heading-up the event.

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