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Career & Volunteer Fair sets high bar for future events

Nov. 27, 2019 -- Marcellus High School’s first-ever Career & Volunteer Fair on Nov. 15 was deemed an unqualified success by students, teachers and the businesses and agencies that participated. And plans for improving it next year are already being discussed.

“I think the word’s going to spread. I think the word’s already spread,” Eric Hubbard, the district’s STEAM and innovation coordinator, said.

“I thought it was awesome how excited the adults were to be there,” Marcellus High School Principal John Durkee said.

Eighty local businesses, representing a wide variety of careers in the fields of public safety, health sciences, STEM, agriculture, architecture and construction, marketing, information systems, the military and more, attended the fair to answer students’ questions and talk about the nature of the work their employees do.

A modified schedule that day enabled all students in grades 7-12 to attend the fair and learn firsthand about careers. A busload of students from Skaneateles High School also attended. In all, about 800 students participated.

Student volunteers met vendors at the curb to help them unload, then escorted them into the reception area in the gymnasium. Participants also received student-made plastic keychains etched with the district’s new “connect-empower-ignite” logo.

“That was a very well organized event, as well as an impressive bunch of students,” Joe Durand, president of TDK Engineering, wrote in an email to fair organizer and Career Center Coordinator Cathy Arvantides. “What a school and what exceptional faculty members – well done!”

Lauren Davis, event production manager for Syracuse University Athletics, wrote that the fair was comparable to events held at the SU Carrier Dome.
“You have some amazing students and I was impressed with the career fair from start to finish,” she said in an email. “Thank you for putting this on because I think it is so important that they get this exposure as early as possible.” 

“Our job is to prepare kids to think critically, think on their own,” Mr. Durkee said. “We want to put them in a position where they can use the skills we’re teaching every single day. We have to create the nexus, show them the connection. And go back to connect, empower and ignite. Those are the three words we live by. And the goal was to have every kid that walked through that door connect with a human being, feel empowered to have another conversation or ignite a passion."

High school language teacher Jessica Cuello said the event did just that.

“It was a terrific opportunity for students to connect to others and to see themselves as part of the broader world; when students are given the freedom to engage at a higher level of responsibility they rise to the challenge,” she said. 

Agriculture teacher Joe Killian agreed that the fair gave students “an authentic experience of considering what careers are available and the opportunities for
success in an area of personal interest following high school.”

Senior Ryan White appreciated the autonomy the event provided for him to engage one-on-one with the visitors.

"I liked it because I was given independence and felt like an adult,” he said. “It was nice to move around without constrictions and have freedom."

Junior Julia Schoenck said her friend actually shifted her career choice after the fair “because of the opportunity to speak with someone in a different field."

Some students even received on-the-spot job offers for part-time work, according to Ms. Arvantides.

“I was really proud of our students, really proud of them,” Ms. Arvantides said. “They were totally engaged and the businesses were happy. I was very impressed with their conversations.”

"I loved it,” senior Liz LoBello said. “I think it was so fun and helped people get jobs and learn more about the career they want to do."

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