By Matt Pascarella
Career planning at any point during high school is important and the earlier you start, the better. JMG/MELMAC* and Windham High School sponsored a college and career fair held at Windham High on Thursday, April 25.
The fair featured 87 colleges and businesses to help sophomores and juniors discover what is out there and what they might like to pursue post high school.
“There is data that shows the earlier students start planning and prepping for life after high school, the easier the transition is with higher retention in school and jobs,” explained Kerry Kowalczyk, the College and Career Specialist at Windham High.
The goal is to have students start thinking about their post-secondary plans earlier rather than later. It is important they see both the college side and career side. Once a student has figured out what path they want and what interests them, there are resources at the high school that can help them learn more and guide them in the right direction.
Windham High runs a variety of trips to various colleges and businesses during a student’s four years to give them a sense of what’s out there and get them thinking about plans after high school.
The colleges at Thursday’s fair had information on hand regarding tours and visitations. This is a perfect time for students to start thinking about options for their senior capstone too; a final project based on a student’s interests and post high school direction.
Students found the fair helpful and a good opportunity to learn about colleges and businesses. “When I come to the fair, I’m able to see the kind of diversity that Maine has for colleges,” began Chole Wilcox, WHS junior. “Seeing the diversity of education levels and what I’m able to choose from is really cool.”
“I get to see my options for my future and see all the local colleges and what they have to offer,” commented sophomore Ezra Smith.
Colleges and businesses were also aware of the importance of being at the fair.
“It is super important for me to be here today to get out and meet some of the students from Windham High School that we currently partner with to take tuition free classes at USM and also recruit new students,” said Jamie Austin, Early College and Program Coordinator for the University of Southern Maine.
“We really want to be a career choice for those high school kids who aren’t ready for college or may not have the opportunity to get into college,” explained Vickie McMullen, Vice President and Banking Center Manager for Mechanic Savings Bank. They brought a wheel with the various bank positions and had been interacting with students all day about what might work for an individual student at Mechanic Savings Bank.
“Students should start thinking about what excited them or interested them and use this opportunity to find what they may enjoy and be good at. Students can then make a plan for their life after high school and be more confident in their choice of direction,” added Kowalcyzk.
Students can and should utilize their high school counselors who can help make a detailed plan recommending ways they can learn more during school (job shadowing, vocational classes or other specific courses they could take) The College and Career Center is a drop in office that can help with anything regarding life after high school.
*JMG/Melmac foundation provides support to students on a school-wide basis to identify their after high school aspirations. The JMG/MELMAC partnership is offered at Old Town High School, Brewer High School, Winslow High School and Windham High School.