By Jennifer Dial, Administrator and AVID Co-Coordinator, Connolly Middle School
Students file out of each class as they are led to the next part of “their” day. Minds are a flurry with the plethora of industries and career paths that they’ve been exposed to from the morning round-robin speaker sessions. As they descend upon the North Field, their eyes light up with excitement. What to do first? Do they strike up a conversation with an eager university employee or sit with the high school Robotics Club? The 2015 Tesla car’s stereo is audibly and visually drawing the students’ interest, while the SWAT vehicle is surrounded by the city’s finest—ready and willing to answer any and all questions. All presenters have hands-on demonstrations and pertinent information to share with any eager middle-schooler. These are just a few of the dozens that are set up for a student-friendly, interactive experience. Today, the classroom extends outside of its usual walls. Today is a day for all students—an event designed to meet individual needs and give students guidance and insight into their own future adventures.
College and Career Day is in its third year. It stemmed from a conversation in an Honors Language Arts class, as the AVID Elective students were dismissed to hear a special speaker. “Why can’t we go, too? We would benefit from hearing those college and career speakers.” The question was posed, and the challenge was on.
Our team began by rallying staff interest and creating a committee of eager and organized individuals, who could set this big endeavor into motion. The committee is comprised of administrators, teachers, and interested community partners. Our team took on the task of creating schedules and templates from scratch. Roles were delegated, and jobs—such as lesson plan development, speaker communications, and day-of logistics—were completed. As a unit, we knew that we wanted this to be a meaningful event for all students and a stress-free day for all staff.
The committee collaborated with the leadership team and decided that the scope of College and Career Day should extend further than a few speakers in the morning. College and Career Day is an entire school day and is made up of many interworking parts. In the morning, students take Cornell notes, while engaging with speakers. We have the students stay stationary, and the speakers rotate between classes. Using first period as a home base opened up availability for each classroom to have four speaker sessions, at 30 minutes each, in a small-group setting. We find speakers from various industries to volunteer their time, and come and present to our students about the importance of college and how it related to their career goals. We emailed our staff for buy-in because we knew that it would be beneficial to tap into their network of family and friends, who could be used as speakers.
Once the 50+ morning-session speaker slots were filled, we focused our efforts toward part two of the day. We planned for students to be split up by grade level and cycle between a keynote speaker, a lunch period, and the Community College and Career Fair on the athletic fields. Our most recent keynote was Miss Arizona 2013, Jennifer Smestad, who spoke about her struggles in school as a student living with Tourette syndrome. She also spoke about how she overcame social anxiety and her fear of being bullied. Students sat silent in the gym as she spoke about her journey, and many students came up to her and shared their tears and joy through their personal connections to her speech.
The Career Fair is an opportunity to get up close and personal with local high schools, colleges, businesses, and city organizations. We filled up the field with as many city vehicles/booths as possible, so we could give each student a wide range of experiences. You may have found an eighth-grader talking to the freshman football coach or a sixth-grader trying on firefighter gear from head to toe. It was even exciting to see our teachers travel from experience-to-experience, like excited kids at Disneyland. Each year has been a success, and even though we are exhausted from a long day, everyone is already thinking about how to make next year’s College and Career Day even more amazing.
The beauty of this event…(wait for it!)…it was done without money. This event was paid out using teachers’ hard work, student excitement, and community/parent support. As the event grew in popularity, we created a speaker hospitality room, so they could meet and mingle, and our amazing Booster Club donated food, while the local Starbucks donated coffee. This event is a signature spring event, used to help inform and excite students about college and career opportunities!
This CAN happen on your campus, too. Below are resources that we use to help College and Career Day run smoothly. Take a look, use what helps you, and feel free to post questions and suggestions in the Comments section below!
Jennifer Dial has been in education since 2007. She spent her first six years in the classroom teaching middle school English Language Arts and the AVID Elective. Her current role as a school administrator allows her to stay involved with AVID and Non-AVID students alike. Last year, Jennifer became an AVID Staff Developer to help inspire the new wave of Middle Level AVID Elective teachers. She is also an AVID Western Division Consultant.
College and Career Day Resources
Directions We Give Teachers for College and Career Day
- Take attendance/Announcements/Move to assigned classrooms.
- Talk to students about behavior expectations (i.e., behavior on the field and asking appropriate questions).
- Give students time to set up their Cornell notes sheet (1 per speaker).
- Give students time to brainstorm questions for speakers.
- Have students do a quickwrite about a career in which they are interested.
- Four speakers will rotate through your room.
- Help keep your speaker motivated by asking questions. Choose a responsible student to help them find their next classroom.
- If a speaker is late or does not show up, you will be emailed easy-to-coordinate, projectable activities for your students to work on until we can get someone in your room. You may also feel free to share your own career story about how and why you became a teacher while you wait.
- *If you are paired with another teacher, please choose a convenient period during this time to take your personal prep.
- You will rotate through Schedule 1, 2, or 3.
- Lunch – Your students’ lunch is your lunch today! Please walk them to the cafeteria and instruct them to meet back at your classroom before going to the next event together.
- Keynote – *If you were not paired with another teacher today, the time during this presentation is your prep! Please drop your students at the gym and meet them back inside a few minutes before the presentation is over.
- Field – You need to move as a class from one presenter to another. Please stay together as a class. You may try holding a yardstick with a piece of paper and your name taped to the top so that your students do not lose you. Please monitor behavior and comments, and move to presenters who are available, rather than waiting in long lines to see others.
- Please lead your students through the Career Interest Survey and through friendly letter writing to write thank-you letters to both our classroom speakers and field presenters. Please coordinate with your students so that some letters go to all four speakers that they saw. If they finish one, they should write more! The more letters that we can send, the better. These activities should fill the remainder of the afternoon.
Blurb From Our Parent Newsletter
At Connolly Middle School in Tempe, Arizona; College is a priority. These students are all “college bound…whatever it takes.” The staff at this Title 1 school continues to promote this motto every day for every student. This event will expose students to diverse professionals from the community. It will allow students to hear about the challenges and successes that each professional has experienced. Career Day will motivate students to work hard in school and consider career possibilities that they may not have thought of before.
All 1100+ students will participate in this event. They will begin their day hearing from four professional speakers in a round robin, small group setting. There are over 50 individuals from various professions/industries in the community who have volunteered their time to come and speak to these students. In the afternoon they will rotate between lunch, a keynote speaker, and a Community career fair on the field. This will be their opportunity to get up close and personal with local high schools, colleges, businesses and city organizations. This professional development will be an unforgettable day and hopefully inspire many young students towards their professional career paths.