The Jasper City Schools System held a career fair at the Community Health Systems Activities Center for fifth- and eighth-grade students. The city district has held an annual career fair every year for more than 15 years, according to Denise Timmons, lead career fair coordinator and a Maddox Middle School sixth- and eighth-grade counselor.
“I believe it was extremely successful in that our goal would be for students to be aware of different career opportunities that are out there for them and the level of education that would be required for those careers,” Timmons said. “We feel as though it’s successful when, as we’re walking around, we’re seeing that the presenters are sharing on a level that we feel is age appropriate for them, and we feel as though the presenters are sharing information that’s kid-friendly and useful for them. They’re sharing technology; they’re sharing resources that the students can kind of tap into once this day is over.”
Fifth graders from Memorial Park, T.R. Simmons and West Jasper elementary schools arrived at the CHS building shortly after 8 a.m. They were then divided into six groups and rotated through the six stations that were represented Wednesday: arts, social services, science and technology, administration and sales, business operations, and technical.
Representatives from various professions explained to students what their job categories entailed. Dr. Jeremiah Alexander of the Farmstead Veterinary Medical Center in Jasper was one of the presenters clustered into the science and technology group.
“I think it’s important to come here to answer the questions the kids have. There’s a variety of questions, and you can clarify stuff about the career and inform them on what they need to do and what they need to do in school to achieve their goals,” Alexander said. “We’ve actually had a lot of good questions about my profession and the [professions of] other people at my table. Their interest in the careers is very interesting to see when they’re asking questions like how do they get there and what they need to do in school.
“This is my second year. It’s always fun to come back every year to see the kids and entertain the questions that they have,” he continued. “It’s also important to inform the kids on any profession that there’s multiple jobs in that profession.”
Not only did the students gain information about each profession — such as how many years one would need to attend college or the cost of one semester at a university — but some also received hands-on experience. Officers from the Jasper Police Department and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed students to try on their vests, helmets and other specialized gear.
Patricia Putman of the Walker County Arts Alliance explained the numerous careers that a degree in creative and performing arts, visual applied arts and written and spoken applied arts consisted of. However, one of the main points Putman emphasized was “finding your passion.”
The main guest speaker for the day was Cesar Pedraza, co-owner of the Los Reyes Grill in downtown Jasper. Pedraza spoke to both grades about how he arrived in the United States, started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to a management position at a local restaurant. Now as part owner of the Mexican restaurant, Pedraza is a living example of what hard work and determination can do.
West Jasper Elementary Counselor Shannon Freeman thought her school’s fifth graders enjoyed their time spent at the career fair.
“The fifth-grade students, being exposed to all of these different occupations and careers is wonderful. They hear about them, but they never see the person in person, and a lot of them are local,” Freeman said. “That’s one of the great things I see coming out of the elementary students and making those occupations a reality.”
In the future, Freeman said she would like for students to “broaden their horizons [with] what they think they can go after instead of being just the typical teacher or nurse from Walker County.”