The Parent Teacher Student Association has started to offer chats with local professionals over lunch to provide students with potential career options.
During the students’ 25 minute lunch period, the speakers describe their day-to-day job and the opportunities for high school and college students in their field. They then allow students to ask them questions about their career.
The sessions are held in the choir room, and recent sessions have had around 30 students attend during each lunch period.
The PTSA uses Instagram polls to gather student feedback regarding what careers they want to hear from. They then try and find someone in that career who would be open to come speak. A homicide detective, which was the most requested career on the last poll, will speak at the next lunch chat scheduled for April 17.
As of now, three lunch chats have taken place starting in February, with careers such as a news anchor, advertising director and theater group speaking to the students.
In the past, the PTSA has hosted a career night once a year, where students could come to learn about multiple careers in one night. The career nights had not been well attended according to PTSA president Tiffany Connelly, so this year the student representatives came up with the idea to offer different career talk sections, so students could choose to attend only the ones they were interested in.
PTSA student representative junior Ava Sudermann believes that the career chats are a more effective way to teach students about future career possibilities.
“It’s easier for students to go to the chats during lunch, rather than trying to take time out of their busy schedules to go to a career fair,” Sudermann said.
The first career chat took place on Feb. 13 with Nick Vasos, a news anchor from Fox 4. This chat was not very well attended, according to Connelly.
But, since the first chat, the PTSA has worked on advertising the event more widely to the school by posting on social media and including upcoming chats in the daily announcements. Teachers have also started to bring whole classes to the chats during their lunch periods.
Digital Design teacher Jennifer Hair made attending the chat for Waltz Tetrick advertising an assignment for students so that they could learn about careers in the advertising business.
“It is an incredible opportunity to hear from business professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders in career fields,” Hair said. “The outlet and opportunity to ask and find out about careers is tremendous because students can look closer and explore further if they are interested or not in a certain career.”
Sophomore Franzi Zueckert, who attended a career chat with Hair’s class, said the chat helped her to better understand what a career in the advertising industry does.
Tom Vahle, a team manager for Chipotle who came to speak at the lunch chat on March 20, thinks that the lunch chats are an effective way for students to explore career opportunities.
“I enjoyed the town hall like format, we just talked openly and answered questions making it not feel like a lecture or presentation,” Vahle said. “It ended up being a fun mix between career and food discussions.”
The PTSA plans to continue hosting the chats next year, but instead over seminar periods so that students do not have to give up their lunch time for the sessions.
They are currently planning to meet with the business and art departments to think of ways to grow the program and offer careers that cover a variety of student interests.
Beginning next fall, Connelly says they plan on hosting eight to 10 career chats throughout the year.
“Our goal for the career chats is to help East students explore different careers and give them the opportunity to ask questions to people who know about the field,” Connelly said. “We want to help students meet the goal of career readiness that both the district and East have.”