SHREWSBURY – Over 60 professionals from a variety of career fields converged at Oak Middle School April 4 to share their work experiences with nearly 500 interested seventh-grade students.
From actors to accountants to animators, nearly every career imaginable was represented. In the weeks leading up to the event, students had the opportunity to choose which professions they would be most interested to hear from.
Of the choices, the medical field was the most popular choice, followed closely by law, engineering, and the sports industry.
Students prepare for Career Day
Career Day was the result of years of planning and growing the program. According to Sinead Slabine, a seventh grade English teacher who has helped organize Career Day since its inception, the idea for the event began with an unruly student nine years ago.
“One of my students was complaining about a class and said that we would never need any of this stuff,” Slabine recalled. “We have a lot of freedom in our curriculum… we had the option to explore anything we wanted as a research topic… and so I chose to focus on careers.”
What started as a research paper assignment in 2015 blossomed into a hands-on experience for the students. In the last few years, the program has grown from sporadic phone calls with professionals to an in-person event with dozens of presenters that involves the entire grade level.
Slabine emphasized the importance of exposing students to a variety of career options.
“I want them to know there are so many options out there. You don’t necessarily have to go to college. You can play on whatever you’re good at and there’s a spot for everyone. That’s my bottom line — everybody can find something for them,” she said.
Students were excited to learn more about different careers. Leading up to the event, students received coaching on body language and handshake, and they had time to develop their questions for the professionals.
“We spent a whole entire week preparing — every day we prepared something different,” Slabine said.
Lisa Daly, English Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator for Shrewsbury’s middle schools, told the Community Advocate that there is nothing better for students than gaining face-to-face exposure with someone in their field of interest.
“The best way for students to really understand what it means to go into a career is to talk to an individual — somebody who really knows what it’s like,” she said. “It’s information that you can’t get out of magazines, online, or in textbooks… Career Day really started as a way for students to almost do a field study in that topic in a way that really connected with them.”
Many of the participants emphasized the importance of allowing students to explore different career options earlier in their academic careers.
“Seventh grade is such an important hinge in their school position; it’s where they are either going to take the path that they’re going to buy in, and they’re going to get excited and engaged in all the options Shrewsbury has, or they’re going to go in the other direction. It’s really important to create that buy-in and that excitement in the seventh-grade year,” Slabine said.
Mike Keohane, a software engineer, agreed with Slabine.
“When I was in high school, I remember that stage in my junior year and senior year when suddenly somebody says ‘it’s time to pick a career,’” Keohane said.
“Getting kids thinking earlier and looking around at what their friends, parents, role models, [and] mentors are doing as early as possible broadens the scope of questions to ask… Getting to them early seems like the best way to get kids a little less panic-stricken when the time to choose a career comes,” he added.
Many professionals were equally as excited as the students to be participating in the event. Corey Costanzo, an Oak and Shrewsbury High School alum and family medicine doctor, was happy to be back to share her career.
“It’s always nice to share your experiences with people who have come from similar roots and see the different paths you can take in life,” she said.