Career Days help students explore options

By Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    12.20.2009


GREECE -- They may be young, but students at Mother of Sorrows School have concrete ideas about what they want to do in the future.

"My dad is a jeweler, so I want to do something like him," fifth-grader Alec Iovino told the Catholic Courier Jan. 7.

"My grandpa is a lawyer, and I want to help protect people's rights," said classmate Zachary Schuler, who wants to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and become an attorney.

A research project administered by the school's library staff recently gave Alec, Zachary and the other students in kindergarten through eighth grade the opportunity to learn more about what they think they'd like to do in the future. The students were charged with choosing a potential career, researching that career and putting together a project based on their findings, said Mary Pioli, school librarian and enrichment teacher. Each finished project also included a paper doll dressed the way a person in the child's chosen profession would dress.

"We were concentrating on research skills and using the library," Pioli said.

Mother of Sorrows is not the only local Catholic school whose staff members feel it's never too early for children to start thinking about the future. Teachers at schools throughout the diocese routinely find creative ways to work career studies into their curriculum. At St. Mary School in Canandaigua, for example, fourth-grade teacher Suzanne Giovenco instructs her students to focus on careers for one of their regular book reports.

"They do this by reading a book about that particular career and prepare a report about it," Giovenco said. "They then become the presenters to the younger children in the school. They love the responsibility of teaching what they have learned through reading and research. ... They even have to learn about the attire of their selected career and dress like them for their presentations."

Members of the community also occasionally visit the school to give career presentations to the students in the fifth through eighth grades, Giovenco said. Several other schools, including Holy Family Junior High School in Elmira, routinely plan such events for their children. At Holy Family, the school's Parent Service Association each year invites eight or nine speakers from different professions to give presentations at the school, Principal Elizabeth Berliner said.

"Presenters are encouraged to bring in hands-on materials, use video clips and utilize interactive materials. Also the student is given a booklet of presenters that has information on all the presenters, including a description of what they do, the preparation needed for their work, what they like best and what they find most challenging, as well as contact information should the student want to follow up and learn more," Berliner said.

Holy Family students also take advantage of community opportunities in career education, Berliner added. In the past for example, students have attended assemblies about engineering and science careers at Corning Glass Inc. and visited open-house events at Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, she said.

Students at St. Michael School in Newark also enjoy an annual Career and Vocation Day, noted Suzanne Tulloch, the school's public-relations and advancement director. On these days students lead a tour of the school for the visiting professionals from the local and church communities before listening to their presentations about careers ranging from enlisted military personnel to priests and nuns, and from small-business owners and farmers to chiropractors.

"By offering so many choices from year to year, the children know that they will have the opportunity to see a variety of careers," Tulloch said.

Students at Christ the King School in Irondequoit also have seen presentations about quite a variety of careers during their school's Career Day, which is held every other year, said Ellen Dusseault, parent coordinator of the event. She said local television news anchors, politicians and judges have been just as popular with the students as Freckles the Clown, who visited last year.

"We do Career Day to expose the students to all kinds of career choices, not just the normal choices that come to mind," Dusseault said. "The students come away with a knowledge of careers that they have either never heard of or have had little or no knowledge about."

The students themselves are responsible for inviting guest presenters to Career Day at St. Joseph School in Auburn, remarked Principal Kathleen Coye. The students also introduce these guests to the other students and follow up with thank-you notes afterwards.

Students in kindergarten at St. Michael School in Penn Yan learn about communities during the school's annual Career Day, thus fulfilling one of the social-studies requirements of their curriculum, said Principal James Tette. Students in all grades gain awareness of the many different careers held by visiting community members, who in turn are exposed to the school and the type of education it offers, he said.

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