BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's an opportunity most students in other parts of the state don't get to experience. On Wednesday, thousands of eighth graders from across South Mississippi took part in an interactive career expo in Biloxi. The event could lead students along the path to their future careers.
A sea of yellow hard hats poured into the Coast Convention Center. About 3,100 eighth graders moved from station to station, many of them aren't exactly sure what they want to do after high school.
"I want to be a nurse, and I also want to be a dancer," said Magnolia Middle School eighth grader Ashley Stallworth.
That's why organizers, volunteers and numerous supporters hosted the second annual Pathways2Possibilities Expo. The program helps guide students toward careers that might interest them.
"As these eighth graders prepare to go into high school and pick their academic pathways, we think it's important to expose them to all the opportunities that are available to them," said P2P Co-Coordinator Karen Sock.
The event featured 19 pathways, or career clusters, including manufacturing, transportation, health and law enforcement. WLOX also set up a mock studio to show the various aspects of broadcast journalism.
Every station at the expo involved some sort of interactive activity.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful. Kids read things, but until they can put their hands on it, it doesn't have as much meaning to them," said Jean Massey, MDE Office of Secondary Education.
The students got a chance to perform medical procedures on a dummy, build homes and talk to the staff from more than 130 businesses, colleges and organizations.
"It was cool, because you get to see every different thing, like when you go to different sites and see what people do in their daily jobs," said Pearl River Central Middle School eighth grader Julie Adam.
"It helps me find out what I'm interested in and what I don't really want to do, because some things are just too complicated and some things are too easy," said Bay-Waveland Middle School eighth grader John Bowman.
"I had thought it was going to be pretty fun and cool, because I can finally go around and see the different careers and things and see what I actually want to do and stuff. So, I think it was a good opportunity for me," said Ashley.
By getting a behind the scenes look at the working world, the students have a clearer picture of what their future careers could look like.
"It's important to plan ahead so you know what you want to do and not just sit around and you're not making money," said John.
The Pathways2Possibilities Expo continues Thursday with another group of 3,100 students. This year, about 200 young people who are considered "at-risk" will also get to experience the program.
A representative from the CREATE Foundation also came to observe the expo in action. The organization plans to use a Toyota grant to start a similar program in Northeast Mississippi next year.