Seventh-graders from Rogersville Middle School learn about potential forestry careers. Jeff Bobo photo.
ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville Middle School seventh-grader Brent Smith is interested in a career as a brain surgeon, but Tuesday's annual Hawkins County Schools Career Fair opened his own brain up to some other career possibilities.
The seventh annual career fair brought more than 40 different businesses and organizations to the Rogersville National Guard Armory, offering seventh-graders a glimpse at a variety of different career options.
They were divided into six different "career clusters," including arts and communication; business and banking; engineering and manufacturing; health care and health services; human services; and agriculture, food and natural resources.
Smith said the ROTC booth caught his attention and opened his eyes to a possible military career.
"If I can't go to the college that I'm wanting to in terms of getting degrees, then I'd go into the military," Smith said.
In the past, each individual school held its own career fair before the program was organized into one countywide event.
Shortly before the end of the school year, every seventh-grader in Hawkins County, including students from the independent Rogersville City School, are bused to the armory to tour dozens of booths and speak to people working in various occupations.
The idea is to impress upon students the idea that the end goal of their education is to prepare them for a career.
Next year, this batch of rising eighth-graders will attend a college fair intended to open their eyes to post-secondary education options, such as college, technical schools and the military.
Dr. Michelle Harless, who is Family and Community Engagement coordinator for Hawkins County Schools, organizes the annual college and career fairs.
She told the Times-News on Tuesday that when these current seventh graders enter high school in the fall of 2015 they will hopefully already have a career path in mind.
"With the information seventh and eighth-graders acquire through these programs, they will begin thinking about a career that interests them," she said. "With that in mind, the courses they choose in high school will put them on the right path and prepare them for the education or training they'll receive after high school as they continue moving toward that specific career."
RMS seventh-grader Chevy Courtney said he hadn't given much though about a career prior to Tuesday's event.
Three possible careers that were represented at the fair caught his interest, including culinary arts, helicopter paramedics and law enforcement.
RMS seventh-grader Tristan Doss said he was interested in the ROTC program, a possible military career and banking.
This year's graduating classes from Hawkins County Schools will be the third group to have attended the countywide career fair in seventh grade.
Harless said she knows of examples in which the career fair affected a student's choice for a career path.
"One student had an interest in the culinary arts classes, and she took those culinary arts classes in high school," Harless said. "She went to a cooking school after she went to high school, and now she owns her own bakery. This is the beginning of exploring their interests, and some of them do find exactly what they're looking for."