St. Joseph Middle School was empty on March 3, 2017, but school was still in session.

All-girl and all-boy teams crisscrossed the city, exploring careers not typically associated with their gender.

This hands-on “Nontraditional Career Fair” is part of our Crayons to College and Career program. Kellogg Community College hosted the event, which was funded by a Calhoun Intermediate School District grant.

The girls began the day at the Regional Manufacturing Technology Center, exploring heating ventilation and cooling, pipefitting, robotics, maintenance, machining, automated manufacturing, electronics, and computer-aided design.

Meanwhile, the boys were on KCC’s main campus, exploring health field careers, such as physical therapy, radiation, magnetic resonance imaging, emergency medical services, and nursing.

“The girls jumped as sparks flew from the welding and electricity demonstrations and the boys were startled by a mannequin in the nursing simulation that sat up and said he was going to be sick,” said Katie Reed, St. Joseph assistant principal.

After lunch, the girls and boys switched locations.

“It was truly an amazing experience for our students to learn and understand the many opportunities that their future could hold while also gaining an appreciation for the people who work in manufacturing, technology, and health fields,” Ms. Reed said.

The day was also unique because each ten-member team consisted of different grades.

“At the beginning of the day [my group] was kind of quiet, by the end of the day, I feel we had formed a little sisterhood,” said Kyra Rabbitt, director of student services and creator of Crayons to College and Career.

Students completed anonymous surveys afterward, showing an increase in nontraditional career awareness.

“We definitely saw movement and growth in terms of what they felt like they knew about the careers that they visited,” Mrs. Rabbitt said.

Many students saw careers they wanted to pursue.

“When we controlled the robot and checked the pulse and the heartbeat, it made me feel like a real nurse.”

“The best part was I got to learn about other jobs that I wasn’t interested in until now.”

“I can’t wait to be old enough to attend these classes. Thank you for this amazing school trip!”

Although a majority of students want to return next year, Mrs. Rabbitt favors doing so on a three-year rotation. She wants to keep college and career exploration fresh for our middle school students.

Future Crayons to College and Career opportunities may include investigation of creative fields or financial literacy classes as it applies to college.

Whatever form these programs take, our students can count on more “nontraditional” school days.

“This is an opportunity for us to grow and continue to provide college and career programming for students at their level,” Mrs. Rabbitt said.

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