Whittier EC Gives Students Early Exposure to a Variety of Professions 

May 22, 2012

Photo by Fred Lewis
Amaka Oji, a chemical engineer with the Air Force Petroleum Agency, gives a hands-on lesson about the chemicals used to make a variety of household products for second graders in Megan Duncan’s class at Whittier Education Campus during a Career Day visit to the Ward 4 school.
Photo by Fred Lewis
Faye Roy, a registered nurse, speaks to students in Janet Corbitt’s class at Whittier Education Campus as part of the Ward 4 school’s Career Day. Professionals from a variety of careers visited Whittier last week as part of a month-long effort to expose students to different careers and give them an idea of the level of education required to achieve their goals.

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When planting seeds, it helps to start early so that seedlings can gather strength, blossom and flourish. Education is no different.

Last week and throughout May, Whittier Education Campus in Ward 4 got a start on planting the seeds of interest for its students during Career Day and Career Month events and activities.  

“It’s extremely important to plant the seeds. Some of our students have almost no exposure to potential careers,” said Cindy Hamilton, the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) coordinator. “Having this month gives them an idea of what they need to do to move forward with their lives.”

Throughout the month, lessons have focused on careers, students have researched professions and presented their findings, pupils in grades K-2 made posters illustrating the careers that interest them, and students learned how to create a resume and plan for college.

On May 17, nurses, doctors, engineers, police, military personnel, hairstylists, entrepreneurs, college students, construction managers, authors, and lawyers visited the school to share their experiences with Whittier students – and give them an idea what it takes, educationally, to land those careers.    

“This is important because students need to understand the significance of education, why school is important and what it leads to,” Hamilton said. “You can’t play around and get to the career of your choice without working toward it.

In Megan Duncan’s second-grade class, chemical engineer Amaka Oji gave students a hands-on demonstration about the ingredients they find in everyday items their parents purchase at the store, such as bath products.

“For this age group, this gives an opportunity for students to see a broad variety of professionals,” Duncan said. “Their brains are like sponges so they’ll soak up all of this. … They’ll talk about Career Day up to June 14 [the last day of school].”

Oji, who works for the Air Force Petroleum Agency, drew upon her prior professional experience with cosmetics giant L’Oreal for last week’s classroom demonstration. She believes it is important to get children excited about science and math at a young age and expose them to a variety of careers related to those disciplines so that kids can see the possibilities for their lives.

“I’m trying not to make them think that basketball and sports are the only ways to make it,” Oji said. “There are so many things you can do.”

Eight-year-old Maria Duarte-Valencia, a student in Ms. Duncan’s class, said she wants to be a model when she grows up and got a chance to dress up like a model during a Career Month event in which students wore clothing associated with their career choices. During Career Day, she worked with Oji to mix lavender with Epsom salts and make fragrant bath salts.

“I’m glad we’re doing this,” Duarte-Valencia said. “It’s a fun day.”

Janet Corbitt said her first- and second-graders benefit greatly from a variety of career choices. Exposure to professionals at an early age also helps students set goals for the future. Corbitt, herself, realized she wanted to be a teacher in elementary school.

“I think it’s important for students to know about careers. It puts them in a frame of mind,” Corbitt said. “Planting the seed early helps them focus in school. It’s important because [elementary school] is where they start to build a foundation. So why shouldn’t you start that foundation now?”

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