Fifth-graders explore career options

May 9, 2013
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Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
Donald Whyel of Mapletown High School teaches Waynesburg Elementary fifth-grade students Mia Batis and Mary Larking how to wire a doorbell. Order a Print
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Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
From left, Waynesburg Elementary fifth-graders Talia Teagarden and Mia Batis apply lipstick to a paper model at the Greene County Career and Technology Center, while Jeremiah Yetter listens and waits to try it. Order a Print
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Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter
From left, Waynesburg Elementary fifth-grade students Autumn Areford and Casey Schrader check the heart rate of a mock patient at the Greene County Career and Technology Center. Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – It might seem an unusual sight for a 10-year-old to be wiring a doorbell or aligning the front end of a Ford Mustang. However, that is just part of what dozens of fifth-graders from Waynesburg Elementary School did this week at the Greene County Career and Technology Center.

The students were there as part of the requirements for the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s benchmarks for career planning. Career and technology centers are among the list of suggested career training programs for school districts to introduce to fifth-graders.

The two-day experience offered this week for fifth-graders at Waynesburg Elementary is something that Karen Pflugh, administrative director of the Greene County CTC, hopes to expand next year. Plfugh said the introduction to what the CTC has to offer has historically been brief. It didn’t give students an opportunity to visit the school and experience hands-on what is offered there.

Plugh said she hopes to include students from each of the fifth-grade classes at the other four Greene County school districts next year and to continue the tradition each year.

“They have been very excited and very entertained by what we have here. It really opened their eyes to what we offer,” said Jill Summersgill, an instructor in the computer technology program.

Summersgill said the fifth-graders who visited her shop learned how to build computer cables as well as learning the difference between a meter and a multimeter. Pointing to the exposed parts of an open computer tower, Summersgill said the students were also given a quick lesson in the mechanical workings of the computer.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the feedback from the students,” she said. “They have been very well-behaved and interested. I really commend them.”

In addition to building computer cables and wiring doorbells, the students had at least a dozen other hands-on opportunities that they could potentially take part in. Prior to their visit, each student selected four of the CTC programs they found interesting to tour.

On Tuesday and Thursday of this week the elementary students, assisted by CTC student volunteers and staff, painted fingernails, dipped strawberries in chocolate and took blood pressure readings. In the child care services classroom hand puppets and finger painting were offered. Those visiting the building construction shop got to hammer nails. In welding they were shown how the welder worked. As safety is a high priority at the CTC, students did not actually use the welding equipment. In areas such as the health assistant shop, they were given gloves, a medical jacket and goggles to wear.

The instructors presented an authentic, age appropriate, miniature look at career options these 10 and 11-year olds might not have otherwise considered.

Pflugh said she is hoping more students will embrace what the CTC has to offer. She made note that several of the programs prepare participants to enter the workforce right from high school. In many cases, they also use what they have learned as a stepping stone to other opportunities.

In the case of a soon-to-be cosmetology graduate, her plan has always been to become a special education teacher. Having her cosmetology license will not only help to pay for her teaching degree, it will also be something to fall back on if necessary.

“I hope that having the students visit at such an early age will help them realize that we have a lot to offer students in Greene County,” said CTC Guidance Counselor Karen Cosner.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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