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Forward in the Fifth gives high school students an opportunity to explore different professional careers

By June 17, 2011No Comments

James Hood, a non-traditional student in Somerset Community College’sCulinary Arts program, answers questions from a group of high school students from Pulaski County who visited SCC’s McCreary County campus to learn more about careers in the culinary arts.

If you ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, you’ll get a hundred different answers: a cowboy, police officer, fireman, or even a doctor.

Forward in the Fifth—a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the educational attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District—and Pulaski County’s College Access Network recently gave 250 freshman and sophomore students at Pulaski County, Southwestern, and Somerset high schools a chance to explore different professionals careers by visiting professionals at work in their home community.

Over a course of several weeks, students met with business leaders, medical professionals, and even prospective employers in Pulaski County to learn what it takes to step into some of today’s top in-demand careers.

They visited Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, the Pulaski County Recycling Center; The Center for Rural Development; the Kentucky Regional High-Growth Training Center, the state’s first publicly owned training facility for utility linemen; Pulaski County Area Technology Center; and Somerset Community College’s main campus in Somerset, where they learned about its distinguished professional programs in physical therapy, radiology, and drama, and SCC’s state-of-the-arts culinary arts program at the McCreary County campus.

Pulaski County High student Chris Adair said he experienced what it takes to make his future career plans become a reality.

“I learned I can become a registered nurse in two years, and that’s what I want to do,” he said. “To make those dreams come true, I must start right now and do well in high school.”

Southwestern High School student Logan Harris discusses various programs students can pursue while still in high school with information technology instructor Gary Shawen during a visit to Pulaski County Area Technology Center.

The student career visits were part an extension of a regional dropout prevention summit hosted last year by Forward in the Fifth and The Center in partnership with Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear’s “Graduate Kentucky” statewide dropout-reduction initiative. The one-day “STAARS Summit: A Community Approach” conference, held at The Center, challenged students to stay in school, graduate, and pursue postsecondary education.

STAARS—a name chosen by local students in the multigenerational committee that helped organize the event—stands for Students Taking Action to Achieve Real Success.

“One of the best educational opportunities we can provide for our students is the chance to step into our shoes and experience the careers they are interested in pursuing,” U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, (KY-05), an education supporter and one of the founders of Forward in the Fifth, said. “Thanks to Forward in the Fifth, students can define clearer career goals by learning the operations of the community businesses that they have grown up visiting.”

This is the second in a series of learning opportunities that these students will have to dig deeper into a field or career and prepare for the future. The College Access Network is comprised of school and community leaders and students whose focus is to assist other young people in furthering their education while strengthening the local economy through a more qualified workforce.

“Exploring one’s interests and learning more about specific careers while in high school is ideal,” Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, said. “These visits are designed to provide an opportunity for our young people to understand daily tasks and education requirements.”

Beth Hargis, principal at Pulaski County Area Technology Center and co-chair of the College Access Network, said the education community is working diligently to prepare students for the future workforce.

“As part of that initiative,” she said, “students have been provided an opportunity to visit potential job sites and learn firsthand about educational and training requirements for jobs as well as opportunities in the respective fields.”

That effort is already paying off for some students who are starting to plan for the future, according to Hargis.

“Students have been extremely receptive to the program with many setting long-term goals leading to productive careers,” she said.

Additional career site visits are planned by Forward in the Fifth and the College Access Network later this year on a semester basis.

For more information on Forward in the Fifth, contact Jim Tackett at 606-677-6000 or via email.