MOUNT VERNON — Choosing and starting a career path is difficult throughout all stages of life, but students at Mount Vernon Middle School were given a head start Friday morning during their annual career day. Career day featured 50 community speakers in a variety of professions for the seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Career day has been run at the middle school since 2000, Family and Consumer Science teacher and organizer Sabrina Pugh explained to the News. They have run at least 20 successful career days in the past 18 years, she said.
It allows the students to choose beneficial classes for high school, Pugh explained, while also getting them to start thinking about possible professions and interests in their future, before it just happens.
“One of the cool things that happened is I’ve had speakers come back that actually heard a speaker in middle school and took a job [in that profession],” Pugh said. “I think the first one was a fireman. He had heard a fireman speak in middle school and he became a fireman. And I’ve had speakers come back and say they’ve hired our students and know that they heard them speak earlier. And a cool thing, now, with a lot of our speakers, not all of them, but a lot of them are former students. Whenever I call a former student they’re always really excited to come.”
The representing careers were all over the board, Pugh explained. Mechanics, restaurant owners, nurses, a representative from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a graphic designer, professional entertainers, massage therapists and even Ohio 68th District State Representative Rick Carfagna.
“A lot of times at this point they think they know exactly what they want to be, and I want to expose them to as many different things as I can,” Pugh said.
The day ran in 22-minute informational sessions, with the students attending five pre-selected career speakers. Pugh explained that she had each student choose their top eight choices and used a computer program to match them to five sessions, and she evened them out so that all of the speakers would always have a full group.
Professional entertainers and musicians Toni and David Dial brought a presentation on their company StarStruck, which helped explain all of the nuances of the modern entertainment industry to the students. The Dials are currently preparing for a headlining gig on a Crystal Serenity cruise.
They explained that there are more ways now than ever before to enter the industry, with YouTube, X-Factor, America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, etc., which Toni is no stranger to, as she won three national performing competitions in Britain in her youth, according to David.
“It’s amazing what a person can do when they have the fortitude, the willingness and the talent,” David said.
Toni explained to the students that one of the hardest things for artists to learn is not to take criticism personally.
“It is so hard when you put your heart and soul into something and somebody doesn’t like it or they say, ‘next,’” she said. “So, the thing is you have to get resilient as well. There’s never been a greater age to be seen.”
The Dials also perform with their dog, Jax, a Maltese who sings with them. They have a YouTube channel called “Toni Morrell and Jax Sing.”
In a different avenue of public life, Ohio Rep. Rick Carfagna led a discussion on state and local government for students.
The informal session allowed Carfagna to walk the students through the process of getting elected, the sacrifices that are made by candidates and their families to serve in public office and the process of getting bills passed and the inspiration behind some of Carfagna’s recent legislative successes.
Carfagna explained that his recent bill, H.B. 353, was born out of conversations he had with a mother in his area. She had a son that was left behind during a daycare field trip, and they daycare center failed to notify other families of this oversight and liability. The bill states that a daycare that is found to have a violation, has to notify the other parents. The bill, Carfagna said, has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives and is awaiting votes in the Senate.
“That was an idea that someone brought to my attention and I put it into a bill,” Carfagna said. “And I got the bill passed, people agreed with me and the woman who came to me. ‘That was exciting, and you may think that the government doesn’t care about me, but sure they do.’ That’s how we get our ideas about what we pass, we talk to the people we represent, and we try to pursue ideas that we think are going to make your lives better.”
Carfagna, a second-year MVMS career day participant, explained that the career day provides an opportunity to shed some light on public service.
“Hopefully it just exposes them to this sort of career path as one of many,” Carfagna told the News. “It plants the seed right now. I mean, the government can seem mysterious, especially to kids this age. It shows them that it can be a normal job. It’s not a job that is reserved for a few, we have people from all walks of life that choose to enter public service. It doesn’t really matter where your skill sets are, or your interests lie, if you have a passion for public service and desire to enter into that vocation, it is a pathway that’s open to you.”