Children See Career Opportunities
Article by Kathryn Bassett | KPC News | September 20, 2019
FORT WAYNE — Country Meadow Elementary School second-grader Ava Christlieb already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.
“I want to be a teacher, because I can help kids learn,” she said without hesitation as she ate her lunch Friday in a classroom at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne.
Christlieb was one of more than 2,200 DeKalb County children in kindergarten through grade 3 who participated in hands-on learning activities at Ivy Tech during the DeKalb County Promise Walk Into My Future.
The event aims to help young children gain ideas of what they can aspire to after completing high school. Students moved through career stations hosted by Ivy Tech students and faculty and the DeKalb County community.
“We are so pleased to have you here,” Ivy Tech Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier told the sea of students who assembled on a grassy area before setting out on the “walk.”
“We are all here to support you on this day as you have experience of walking in your future. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” she asked the children.
“A You Tuber,” one child yelled out with enthusiasm.
“A singer,” said another.
“A farmer or a vet,” a child responded.
“Today is for you to find out some other things that might interest you,” Mosier said. “Maybe working with robotics … or electronics, or to be a nurse or to build a house.”
Country Meadow second-grader Callen Lapham hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a probation officer, he said. However, he also is interested in technology, he added.
Lapham said he especially enjoyed a session Friday morning that was presented by the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and highlighted the many different occupations that ensure the zoo’s smooth and successful operation.
Career stations that students visited Friday included advanced manufacturing and engineering; arts, sciences and education; business, logistics and supply chain; career services; health sciences; information technology; nursing; public affairs and social services; and student success.
At a station hosted by Impact Institute of Kendallville, students learned about the careers of a chef and a baker and enjoyed an activity icing and decorating a cookie.
Students also learned about “career clusters,” and were quick to reel off the variety of occupations that involve working with animals.
“A zookeeper,” one student offered.
“A farmer,” suggested another.
Those interested in cars might enjoy careers as engineers, mechanics or designers, students agreed.
Members of FFA chapters from DeKalb, Garrett and Eastside high schools enjoyed talking to students about the varied careers in agriculture, such as veterinarians, food processors, agronomists and truck drivers. They allowed children to climb aboard large tractors and other agricultural equipment.
“It’s important for the kids to understand it’s not just about farming,” said DeKalb FFA member Sydney Hefty.
Ivy Tech dual credit college adviser Christopher Riley was among those who led the groups of students through the Ivy Tech campus. Riley also coordinates I-Explore, a similar event for upper-elementary and middle school students.
“I hope that they realize there are opportunities that they would not otherwise consider,” Riley said. “They are getting exposure to new career opportunities. It’s a great program and great opportunity for DeKalb County. I’m in awe of the partnership and collaboration.”
The Walk Into My Future event is one of three components of DeKalb County Promise. DeKalb County families can enroll their children, from age 4 to grade 12, in 529 career savings accounts at no cost, receiving an initial $25 enrollment incentive. Classroom teachers also serve an important role helping children build their “future stories,” by including career-focused activities in their classrooms.
DeKalb County Promise is a partnership between the Community Foundation of DeKalb County, DeKalb County Central, DeKalb County Eastern and Garrett-Keyser-Butler public school districts, Lakewood Park and St. Joseph Catholic private schools and the home school community of DeKalb County.
Numerous other community organizations are behind the effort, including Ambassador Enterprises, the Cole Foundation, Community Foundation DeKalb County, DeKalb Health, Eckhart Public Library, Junior Achievement, The James Foundation, United Way DeKalb County, and the YMCA, among others.