BLAIRSVILLE name and colors slide

According to guidance counselor Mark Zerfoss, the purpose of the event was to “expose students to things that they maybe didn’t consider before.”

Jeff Geesey, the career transition consultant for the school district, explained that many times it is hard to decide what you want to do without being able to actually know what a certain career entails. “Even if what they find out about a career wasn’t what they are really interested in, that’s not a bad thing because it’s a process in which you don’t know what you don’t know until you have had an opportunity to experience it with somebody from that industry that can tell you what exactly is involved in that career pathway.”

Eden Ganoe, a freshman who attended the event, agreed with that sentiment: “It was very helpful. I got to ask a lot of questions that I had been meaning to research.”

The event began as a way to meet state standards set up in the Chapter 339 Plan, which are college readiness requirements for students to graduate. In meeting these requirements, the event has enabled students to connect with opportunities for employment in the area.

“I think that it helps to educate students about what is available in the area, and a more knowledgeable workforce is better,” said Melissa Townsend-Fisher, a representative for St. Andrew’s Village, who presented at the event. 

Junior Cole Townsend also said that it increased his ability to recognize local opportunities.

“It really expanded my knowledge of the careers and pathways that are available in this area,” he said.

Although it was a local event, it also provided an insight into ways for students to move outside the area.

Colleen O’Neil, a representative for the University of Pittsburgh, spoke to this when she said, “It’s nice to be able to talk to students about all the opportunities they have, like studying abroad, that can add to their academic experience.”

According to Geesey, the event had seen great support from the local business community. “They truly have embraced the mission of it, and our post-secondary educational partners have also been very actively involved.”

Beth Neffield, a representative for Excela Health, added that part of the reason the CaCRE attracted them was because “it gets our name out there.”

“People don’t realize who we are as a system, so it lets people know what we do and that we have opportunities out there,” Neffield said.

Zerfoss also commented on the duality of businesses interests.

“They are promoting their business, but they are also looking to see if there are students here who would be a good fit for their business,” he said.

Keynote speakers state Sen. Joe Pittman and Rep. Jim Struzzi offered insight into their own career paths. Pittman told students about how his road to senatorship started by asking a question that led to better opportunities. He closed his remarks by saying, “Understand that there are opportunities available and if you take advantage of them, you can succeed.”

Struzzi spoke to the winding path that led him to being a representative and how it prepared him for the job he has now. He left students with the words, “Seize your opportunities … don’t be afraid to say yes and try.”

Students who participated in the event were given schedules to follow for the duration of the event.

“Every student gets his or her own individualized tour schedule based on their Naviance data and then they get a direct access to those employers which support those careers,” Geesey said.

After the participants filled out a survey on Naviance, the district’s online career and college readiness tool, the data is then used to find areas of interest, which are then used to create the schedules.

The event demonstrated to students the realities of local educational and career opportunities and showed them how much there still is to learn.

Students Heavenlee Lowman and Myrissa Beskid-Perez said they wished that there had been more time to visit with the different booths.

Lowman expressed her wish to be able to visit with the IUP representative longer while Beskid-Persez said, “It was neat, but there wasn’t much time.”

Others, like Isabella Previte, said she didn’t have much of their interests represented at the event.

“It seemed skewed toward specific types of careers and I didn’t find that particularly beneficial to my future,” Previte said. This could be explained by the fact that the types of jobs available in this area tend to be in health care and manufacturing, which makes it difficult to cater to the wide variety of interest areas represented in the student body.

Geesey also spoke to the results from last year’s CaCRE.

“Overall the students were very happy with what they saw and who they met with, and it really helped them make those critical decisions,” he said.