Artists, authors, firemen, doctors, police, nurses, programmers, politicians and even a rocket scientist, as well as a menagerie of dozens of other professionals, all converged on Crestwood Middle School on Friday, Dec. 7 to celebrate Career Day and give students a glimpse of what life is like in the workforce.
Assistant Principal Melissa Kaliser was pleased with the turnout. About 60 professionals turned up for school’s annual Career Day, where students were provided with face-to-face access to a wide variety of professionals all offering information, advice and encouragement when choosing a career.
“I have the best job in the whole world. I get to play with kittens every day,” said veterinarian technician Jessica Gonzalez, who has worked at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League for the last three years. “It’s very rewarding work to be involved in the rescue and adoption of animals.”
Rocket scientist Kevin Van Dyke disagreed who has the best job in the world. “I built rockets as a kid, got my pilot license at 17, and I have worked on the Apollo and other programs,” said Van Dyke, a propulsion engineer with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
His main advice to students is, “The one thing you have control over is your attitude. Your attitude determines your altitude.”
Van Dyke went on to describe how any successful career requires a willingness to think, to stretch your boundaries, to learn new things, and to work hard alongside others toward team goals.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeff Hmara, who currently serves on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, told students about the many lessons he learned in the military.
“I was surprised how the military stretched what I thought were my limits. No way would I have believed that I was capable of a career that landed me an assignment in the White House where I met with the president in the Oval Office,” said Hmara, who spoke highly of the late President George H.W. Bush.
Hmara went on to say that one of the strongest benefits of a military career is the camaraderie of being part of a team.
Firefighter and EMT Scott Monaghan knows what it’s like to be part of a team facing life and death decisions in pursuit of its mission. “The best part of being a firefighter is the brotherhood aspect,” he said. “It’s a family, and it feels good to know that everyone has your back.”
Monaghan’s advice to all students is to “focus on your studies.”
“Without a degree, your options on career are too limited,” he said.
Some adults gave the students career-specific advice.
“Read as much as you can to learn the vocabulary you will need to choose the perfect word at the perfect time in your writing,” author Tom Tufts urged aspiring writers.
Everglades National Park Ranger Maria Thomson briefed students on the wide variety of careers available within the National Park Service.
Financial consultant Scheron Taylor talked to the students about delayed gratification. She used the marshmallow game, where students who didn’t eat their one marshmallow after five minutes received a second. She urged students to save and invest, rather than spend, after they start earning money.
Some students know exactly what is driving them in their career choice. “Everyone in my family is in the medical field, so I want to do something different and be an attorney,” eighth grader Julia Laborda said.
Fellow eighth grader Jermain Jenkins said he is unsure why exactly he wants to be a correctional officer, except to say he thinks the money and benefits are good. Angie Villamil wants to help future students cope with middle school stress by becoming a child psychologist.
Student Thernadrik “T.J.” Young is passionate about the game of football and looks forward to a career as a slot receiver. “I can run the 40 in under 4.7,” he said, while then mentioning that his backup plan right now is to become a rap star.
Adina Jackson is not sure exactly which subspecialty she will study, but she wants a career as a marine biologist. “I like it all. I love nature, and especially marine animals. I will decide later if I want to specialize in sharks or marine mammals or whatever, but right now I am fascinated with biology and want to learn as much as possible,” she said.
Roberto Rodriquez knows exactly what he wants to be, sort of. “I want to be a jet mechanic in the Navy, like my dad,” he said.
Rodriquez wants a job where he gets to travel the world, and one of his goals is to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
“I am good at math, and my mind is actually open to any naval career where I get to use my strengths,” he said.
Artist Krystal Clark applauds this type of open-mindedness.
“When I was young and wanted to be an artist, adults tried hard to steer me to other, more lucrative careers,” said Clark, who serves as vice chair of the Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board.
Her message to students is to urge them “to diversify” their career dreams. “For example, take your dream of being a professional athlete and widen your mind to consider related careers, such as an agent, athletic director, team trainer, videographer, etc.,” she said.
“Don’t put yourself in a box,” teacher Tim Hegarty agreed.
His advice to middle school students is to not worry too much about the future. “Do well on whatever is in front of you, and life will take you to good places,” he said.