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Spring Branch ISD equips eighth-graders for future careers

January 21, 2019

Finishing up eighth grade means making decisions for high school and starting to plan for what you want to do as a career.

To equip them to make good course selections, approximately 2,540 Spring Branch Independent School District eighth-graders heard from around 100 district partners and career professionals Jan 16-17 at the South Transition Center and The Guthrie Center.

At the transition center, each student listened to four speakers from a wide range of fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math); arts and humanities; business and industry; and public service. A business owner, police sergeant, journalist, photographer and a real estate agent were just a few who volunteered their time.

Afterward, the students grabbed lunch and headed to The Guthrie Center to check out some of the Career & Technical Education courses in action. The Guthrie Center provides 15 professionally geared programs for high school students, such as 3D animation, cosmetology and criminal justice.

“Our goal in planning this event was that we expose kids to careers and professionals, No. 1, that we’re widening their understanding of not just knowing ‘I know the careers I’ve come into contact with as an eighth grader: I know my pediatrician, I know what my family members do, and I know what my teachers do because I see them,’” said Abby Walker, SBISD coordinator for strategic partnerships and volunteer programs.

“But we’ve widened their understanding of careers, and naturally, the second objective is we are helping them make an informed decision that for the district aligns with our T-2-4 goal,” she said.

T-2-4 is a SBISD initiative that works to get every student post-secondary education, whether it be a technical certificate or military training or a two- or four-year degree.

Walker said the district hopes students will make course selections not based on factors like what their friends are signing up for but what their interests are, where their strengths lie and what their dreams are.

Tan Minh Le, founder and director of 3DCAD Masters, both lives and works in the Spring Branch area. He talked to students about how learning to think spatially (in three dimensions) using CAD programs helps in all careers. For example, physicians have to think spatially to see through a flat X-ray and tell what is wrong with the patient, Minh Le said.

“I think the United States is not graduating enough engineers compared to, I think, China. They graduate engineers on a yearly basis probably four times the U.S., and I feel that STEM-related careers are not being advocated strongly enough,” he said, explaining that he wants to be a part of changing that.

Aaron Gillaspie is the president and CEO at Willis Park Corporation, which has a portfolio of businesses in Texas. He encouraged students that want to be leaders in any field to learn the base-level positions and be willing to do what it takes to get the job done well.

“As the CEO of any company or as the leader of any company or as the captain of any sports team, the whole goal is to lead by example,” Gillaspie said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t get on my hands and knees and clean toilets — I will absolutely do it. That does not mean I’ve not had to do almost anything. If you think you’re too good for something, you probably shouldn’t be a leader.”

He also urged the students to find mentors in multiple areas of their lives, to take risks and never be afraid to fail, even often.

MMS eighth-grader Sydney wants to pursue a career in business and said she learned from listening to Gillaspie.

“I’ve definitely gotten the point across of just try things that you would like to do, whether it’s like something really difficult or something just different,” she said.

Soon, each SBISD eight-grade student will take a day trip to visit their future high school, and their parents will follow later that evening. Then, the students will elect their ninth-grade courses, hopefully better prepared thanks to their Career Day experience.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com

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