BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Middle school students across South Mississippi spent this week exploring what they want to do when they grow up. On Wednesday, about 3,000 eighth graders converged on the Coast Convention Center in Biloxi for a unique Career Expo.
The expo is different, because it targets students before they get to high school and have to choose the careers and curriculum that match their interests. Many students discovered jobs they've never considered before and learned how they can be successful even if they don't pursue a four-year college degree.
The convention hall looked like a giant work-place. In one area, officers showed off their shiny rides. On the other side, there was a medical clinic complete with a breathing, birthing mannequin and a tool used in robotic surgery.
"If I like the technology, then I'll go with it 'cause it'll be cool. I like to have a cool job and this will help me a lot," said Andrew Bowie of Ocean Springs Middle School.
About 3,000 eighth graders took turns visiting 19-pathways, or career fields, they'd like to explore. About 130-businesses and non-profit agencies set up interactive displays at the first-ever "Pathways2Possibilities Career Expo."
"It's about relevance and it's about relationships and getting them to actually touch and feel what they've been learning in the classroom," said P2P Co-Coordinator Paige Roberts. "For so, long our country has narrowly defined success and we've said it's a four year degree or nothing. But clearly, that is not the case. Everyone has a different gift and finding it and then determining the appropriate path to get there, whatever that path includes, that's what we want students to leave here thinking."
Students learned about jobs in agriculture and the military.
"I got to talk to a lot of people over there and over here. It was really cool," said Jordan Cochran of George County Middle School.
And they met the people who work behind the scenes at WLOX. Emyia Buxton of Hancock Middle School said the event opened up her eyes to more career options.
"It really is, because I mean, I only wanted to be three things, which was a Navy officer, a lawyer or a nurse. Now I see that it's way more than what I could think of," she said.
"Some eighth grader in here, hopefully more than one, their life is being changed at this moment as we talk, for the rest of their lives, and it's just thrilling," said Roberts.
On Thursday, another group of 3,000 eighth graders will get to experience the event. The Jackson County Civic Action Committee headed-up the P2P Career Expo.