Salem fifth-graders encouraged to dream big at career fair

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Photo by Shawn Nowlin
Salem High School Autobody shop instructors Derrek Wray (l) and Steven Edwards answering questions.

Encouraging youth can come in a variety of ways. Such examples as having meaningful conversations and avoiding comparison praise were on full display on Nov. 17 when the all of the local elementary schools held a unique career fair at the Salem Civic Center for their fifth-grade students.

The purpose of the occasion was to provide an opportunity for young pupils to meet and get advice from several local employers throughout the city.

Questions asked ranged from “did you have to go to college to get your job?” to “what is the most difficult thing about what you do?” The advice Ivy Hamilton gave students was to make the most of every opportunity. “I told them you never know what opportunities are out there if you don’t make an effort,” the Hollywood Nails & Hair stylist said.

“Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is very proactive in their recruiting and retention program,” VDOT Maintenance Operations Manager Pat Bower said. “Anytime we have the opportunity to share with young people the types of work we do, we are happy to do it.”

Balancing work and a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, but YMCA Wellness Coordinator Elizabeth Law gave students tips on how to manage that. “My advice to them was ‘be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,’” she said. “Children are constantly learning from and influenced by everything that is going on around them. It is essential to start instilling confidence in children now so that they will be strong, confident adults that believe in themselves later.”

Captain Scott Gibson and Captain CJ Schaffer spoke to the fifth-grade students on behalf of the City of Salem Fire & EMS Department. “We regularly teach and talk about the good that comes from different situations we are put in and the satisfaction that comes from helping others,” Captain Gibson said.

Captain Schaffer added: “Answering the hours and scheduling questions is always interesting when it comes to kids because we work 24-hour shifts. Once they comprehend that we leave for work in the morning just like their parents, but we do not get home until the next morning, they are quite shocked.”

Giving young people advice is something that G.W. Carver Instructional Assistant Cheryl Sweeney takes very seriously. “Young children need to have confidence instilled in them early on so they believe they can achieve anything they set their sights on,” she said. “Every one of these kids has the ability and the right to become anything they want in life.”