Ridgeview STEM Junior High School officials hope lunchtime chats with parents and others in the community can help build bridges to college choices and numerous career options for students.

Ridgeview STEM Junior High School officials hope lunchtime chats with parents and others in the community can help build bridges to college choices and numerous career options for students.

In today's global marketplace, Pickerington Local School District officials say it's never too early for young people to start thinking about life beyond high school.

"The big push now is college and career readiness, and it's K-12," said Kris Owen, a Ridgeview school counselor. "We start from kindergarten."

Preparing students for a lifetime of learning and professional success are objectives teachers, counselors and other staff members at Ridgeview seek to support through academic lessons, extracurricular opportunities and other activities designed to foster mental, social and emotional development.

This year, they're once again employing "Career Cafe," where they hope to bring in parents and other adults from the community to discuss their professions and what qualifications one needs to obtain those jobs.

"Parent involvement, community involvement and having speakers in the building is something we frequently look to do," Owen said.

"For Career Cafe, we set up appointments to have people speak, and we leave it up to the students and allow them to go to the speakers they want.

"(Adults) talk about their careers and what kind of education they needed," Owen said.

"Sometimes, they talk about salaries, aptitude and what kind of skills you need for these types of careers."

The presentations take place during Ridgeview's lunch periods, which span from about 10 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.

Adults who take part typically are asked to speak once or twice during the school year.

Owen and Ridgeview teacher Tabitha Furlong said each year they try to recruit speakers from all walks of life, ranging from the medical field to commercial businesses and skilled trades.

"We had a helicopter pilot fly in, we've had firefighters, forensic scientists," Owen said.

"We try to bring in a little bit of everything."

To help round out this year's program, the school is seeking more community participation.

"At this time, we are looking for community members to sign up so we can make contact with them," Furlong said. "We would like the professionals to provide a small, 10-to-15-minute presentation of their work.

"They can bring in tools or show pictures or do an activity with the kids," Furlong said.

"They can also just do a PowerPoint presentation or show websites. It's up to the professionals."

Parents and interested community members are asked to fill out an online form at https://goo.gl/forms/G7fDdA82d1feXmZi1. Information is available at Pickerington.k12.oh.us.

Owen said Career Cafe also supplements College and Career Family Night, an annual one-night event at which university recruiters, college financial planners, business professionals and others share information district officials hope will link students in grades 5-8 to higher education and career paths.

This year, College and Career Family Night will take place from 5-8 p.m. Jan. 25 at Lakeview Junior High School.

"It's addressing career exploration and looking at career interests," Owen said. "We're always trying to look at the different skills students have and their personality types to match them up with careers.

"They really do need to think about where they are going to go," Owen said.

"When they hear about what people really do, even ones that aren't necessarily their top choice, students walk away with new perspectives and new goals."

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