When you were in the eighth grade, did you know what you wanted to do as an adult?
If the answer is no, then maybe some of the answers from eighth-graders attending a Career Awareness Fair sponsored by the West Shore School District might surprise you.
The annual event, held last month at Crossroads Middle School in Fairview Township, offered a total of 37 presenters representing a wide spectrum of local careers, from child care to modeling to mortuary science.
“I think it’s nice you can learn all about different jobs here,” said Crossroads eighth-grader Jacob Strausbaugh, 13, who mentioned that he’d like to become a graphic designer or an engineer.
About 600 West Shore eighth-graders from Crossroads, Allen and New Cumberland middle schools took turns that morning filing through career information displays. Each student was required to interview at least five career representatives, said Crossroads guidance counselor Stacey Ehrig.
This is the third year that the West Shore School District has sponsored a Career Awareness Fair for its eighth-graders, according to Ryan Argot, the district’s spokesman and director of federal programs. Derived from the district’s strategic planning process, the career fair is intended to give students an opportunity to learn about and consider future careers before they enter high school.
Andrew Schlegel, 14, an Allen eighth-grader, said, so far that morning, he had visited information displays for physical therapy, engineering and banking and was about to do a dental hygienist interview. Of all the displays, he liked engineering the best, he said.
“My older brother is an engineer, and I like math,” he said. “I like creating and designing stuff, too. I was thinking about being a lawyer, but I could be an engineer as a backup.”
Allen eighth-grader Breanna Hooper, 13, visited the law enforcement, counseling and mortician information displays, with two more on deck. Her favorite was the law enforcement, she said, because she is considering a career in either that or graphic arts.
Hooper said she stopped at the Parthemore Funeral Home & Cremation Services display because she was curious about mortuary science.
“Before, I thought it was kind of scary,” she admitted, but added that the career seemed much less so after interviewing Gib Parthemore and Red Land High School senior Katelyn Fahnestock.
Parthemore runs the family business with brothers Bruce and Steve in New Cumberland. The West Shore School District is near to his heart because he’s a former district school director and a member of the West Shore Foundation.
Fahnestock, who plans to become a mortician, is job shadowing at the business for her senior graduation project. While shadowing, Fahnestock watches the Parthemore brothers in action and takes plenty of notes. Her ultimate goal is running her own mortuary business, she said.
“I wanted to go into this because I like to help people,” she explained. “This is a way that I’m helping the grieving. I plan on going to college for business and then to mortuary school.”
So what do middle school students want to know about mortuary science?
“The kids want to know how much you make, what a typical day is like,” Parthemore noted.
Bill Whale, who runs the Whales, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails Child Care Center in Etters with wife Judy, said he heard the same types of questions from students.
“The kids want to know what sort of credentials you need for this job and how much is the pay,” he said. “Daycare is not all about the money. You have to love the work. If you’re working in daycare, you can be right there in the center where your kids are. You don’t have to be away from them all day working somewhere else.”
Whale said that he had seen “at least a dozen” of his former daycare students come through his display that day. “They all have a story to tell me,” he noted.
West Shore School Board President Ron Candioto was on hand to tell students about Hershocks, Inc., of Lemoyne, a construction contractor specialty service. Candioto, the company’s vice president and senior estimator, was passing out foam stress balls shaped like hard hats.
“What’s the worst thing you have to do at your job?” asked one of the many students gathered around Candioto’s table.
“The worst thing is when I have to tell people they don’t have a job anymore,” Candioto answered candidly. “It doesn’t happen often, but as a vice president of the business, I have to do that.”
Another student asked what school courses were vital to the construction business.
“Math is critical, especially algebra,” Candioto replied. “I use it every day. Also, you need good communication skills. That’s very important. You need to look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them.”
Other businesses and organizations featured at the Career Awareness Fair included Barbizon, an acting and modeling school in Lemoyne, the Fairview Township Police Department and Diakon Family Life Services. Susan Ryder, a communications professional and freelance writer for TheBurg, was on hand to talk about writing careers.
“The kids enjoy it. The adults enjoy it,” said West Shore Superintendent Todd Stoltz. “I think it’s a wonderful way to expose kids to a variety of careers.”