Area high school seniors attend college, career event

Daniel Dye / The Herald Sarah Phelps, left, speaks with Kathryn Bandy from University of South Alabama about opportunities available to Holtville High School students.

Lindsay Jordan, career coach for Elmore County Board of Education, estimated 600 to 700 high school seniors from the county's four public high schools and other schools in the area were given the chance to speak with and learn more about a total of 62 organizations last Wednesday.

The organizations set up at the Wetumpka Civic Center included colleges and universities, military recruiters, area businesses and industries, state departments and employment services organizations.

The shift in decades-old thinking high school graduates must go to college was evident at this event. What was once a day for students to solely find out more about college and university offerings expanded to include businesses with jobs to fill.

"One of the things we've added are employers and service providers to this program," Jordan said. "This helps students understand college is a great path, but it is also a great option to go to work, to choose the military or to look into doing some of these options all at the same time. There are a lot of pathways out of high school and we want to expose them to as many as possible."

Almost 1/3 of all exhibitors were not affiliated with higher education. Several of those had job openings to fill.

"We typically have at least one or two students every year find a contact here that turns into a job immediately," Jordan said. "It might be UPS, Wind Creek in Wetumpka, Bass Lumber. These companies are looking for people who are 18. Maybe it is an internship with Dixie Electric. A lot of those will turn into jobs for these students."

Some students were exclusively gathering more information on colleges and universities. Elmore County High School senior Landon Maynard has not decided which school to attend. He is hopeful a college baseball team will recruit him.

"I am finding information on colleges here and giving them my contact information right now," he said as a finished speaking with a representative from The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). "I want to major in physical therapy. I play baseball so I am waiting for the season to start before I make decisions."

One university representative who values the contact information cards turned in by students at local college days is Kathryn Bandy. Based out of Montgomery, she is a new student recruiter for University of South Alabama (USA) for this area of the state.

Bandy estimated in a typical year she will receive between 2,000 and 3,000 contact information cards from high school seniors interested in USA.

"In my recruitment area I will typically attend anywhere from 40 to 50 events a year," she said. "Recruiting is a very personal experience. I think that the admissions officers are advocates for the students. We like to get to know them because we can point them in the right direction for different scholarship opportunities and specific items that they may not see on our website. It is very important for us to get to know the students."

Also on display at the civic center were recruiters from several military branches including Auburn University at Montgomery Army ROTC recruiting operations officer Joseph Masarik. He shared his experience with students and the options available to them after high school.

"I went to the Army enlisted," Masarik said. "I realized once I had several years of service that I could retire, but the retirement would not be enough to survive on. That's when I decided to go to college.

"Going enlisted helped me focus and I went to college. I have a master's degree in health administration and a master's degree in human resources."

Elmore County Technical Center counselor Jared Sellers summed up the event best.

"If you can put all this in one room and show them different options it can turn on a light bulb for them," he said. "Even with the military options, there are many jobs in the military that kids may not know about. A lot of students do not have a plan yet. We tell them the workforce wants you. It sends a good message to the kids when they come here and see what we are talking about."