NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 15, 2019) –Technical experts from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District interacted with students from across Nashville introducing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers during the 11th annual My Future, My Way Career Exploration Fair at the Music City Convention Center Nov. 15.
“This was an excellent opportunity for Corps employees to interact with the students, ask questions about their future, favorite subjects and get hands-on interaction with them versus just having a few to sit and listen to a presentation,” said Calandra Wilson, an Equal Opportunity Employment specialist, District STEM Coordinator and Special Emphasis Manager from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District.
The Nashville District set up a large exhibit with various Corps career choices where park rangers, engineers, realty specialists, and administrators talked to students and signed their career work books. They shared their knowledge about engineering, water management, locks and dams regulatory and the role of park rangers.
Students were given a workbook and had 60 minutes to move through the fair and get signatures in their workbook from themed areas.
Donna Gilley, Metro Nashville Public Schools Director of Academies of Nashville said the Career Exploration fair was the perfect opportunity for high school freshmen in Nashville schools to speak to real professionals from hundreds of career and industries areas with the goal to educate and prepare students for college and ultimately steer them to go after their dream jobs.
“We are glad to be a partner with the Corps of Engineers and what’s so exciting is that the students have this opportunity today to explore careers, talk with Corps individuals and others from STEM businesses about what they may want to explore to go into later in their life,” said Gilley.
Gilley said more than 6,000 ninth grade high school students visited the Music City Center exploring career options they can pursue after high school and college. Students had the opportunity to talk to industry professionals from more than 400 different career areas.
Wilson, who helped organize the Corps’ participation at the event, said the Corps’ presence at this event provided the students with key STEM information and products to assist them in making choices for their high school academic path and ultimate career choices, which could eventually lead them to a future with the Corps.
“Seeing and talking to these students really opened my eyes to how much of an impact the Corps has on students decisions in high school that can ultimately be their decision or choice for college and their career,” said Will Gore, a natural resource specialist with the Nashville District. “It was a great opportunity to hear questions and highlight the opportunities the Corps of Engineers has to offer young people preparing for a future in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.
Gilley said the academies and career exploration fair are designed to give students a preview to what future careers are actually like, so that they can make timely, informed decisions and discover their true passions.
James Sowell, safety officer with the Nashville District Operations Division and Mike Crawley, an engineering technician from the Engineering and Construction Division, talked to students about crane operation, engineering and the many job specialties within the Corps.
“I like attending events like this,” said Sowell. “It helps us raise the student’s awareness and help them think about their future. I was very impressed with their questions and eagerness.”
Aurora Scott, a biologist in the Nashville District’s Regulatory section, explained that the interaction with the students is designed to provide them broad career overviews, and the Corps’ involvement is about mapping out what students need to do to achieve their career goals.
“I think it’s extremely critical to make this impact with these students and have this interaction because they are getting to see what we do,” said Scott. “Most of them don’t really know about all the jobs that are available and at this young age we can show them goals that they can work towards.”
Ashley Fuentes, a biologist in the Nashville District’s Hydrology and Hydraulics section, shared information and job opportunities about how Corps employees are stewards of water, federal lands, and park resources at Corps-operated and maintained water resources projects.
“I shared a lot of different things about how water works, and land and natural resources management as a whole, with recreation being one aspect of it,” Fuentes said. “I told a few students about making good career choices because career development and education are key elements they would need for a career in natural resources.”
Students also learned about natural resources from park rangers Will Gore and Luke Navarro, who explained to students that the Nashville District maintains recreation areas, lakes and operates multi-purpose projects with hydroelectric power plants in the Cumberland River Basin.
Valentina Quintero, ninth grade, from Hume Fogg High School said it was interesting to learn about land, Corps property, civil engineering and how water goes through a dam and generates hydropower.
“I like having the opportunity to talk with people that actually do these jobs,” said Quintero. “I’m interested in being an engineer, and now I think it would be cool to work for the Corps.”
Gilley said students in the Academies of Nashville, choose what they want to learn. Families have their choice of more than 40 different academies within the 12-zoned high schools in MNPS. Various academies offer a practical, hands-on approach to learning in a field that interests students, ranging from engineering to healthcare.
According to Gilley more than 100 Middle Tennessee businesses and non-profits participated in the Career Exploration Fair. She said MNPS is really glad to be a partner with the Corps of Engineers
“This event is a big win and start for our students because it allows them to choose an academy that will propel them forward and allow them to excel in a career path of their choice,” said Gilley. “This allows them to develop a four and five year plan so they can start making plans that will impact their future.”
Gilley said the annual career fair was hosted by sponsored by the Metro Nashville Public schools Academies, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, PENCIL foundation, and Alignment Nashville.
Sondra Abanto, a program analyst and Luke Navarro, a park ranger from J. Percy Priest lake both assisted and translated Spanish to English for Spanish speaking high school students from various high schools during the career fair.
“My Future, My Way, Career Exploration Fair with its thousands of attendee is a success. This is a great way for these students to get an idea of the many jobs Corps provides and the many jobs that they can do with the Corps of Engineers,” said Wilson. “I truly hope some of these young smart people will come work for the Corps someday and the best thing we can do for them as high school students is to provide key information about career decisions, help them choose a great school and a career path that’s best for them.”
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