Western Middle School held their first annual Career Day for the entire school on Thursday.
Visitors represented a variety of professions ranging from emergency dispatch worker to engineer, from banker to doctor, from plumber to politician.
The event aligned nicely with the school’s AVID theme of college and career readiness. While AVID is an elective, many of its strategies and tools are incorporated into a school-wide approach. At Western there is a forward looking focus and emphasis on preparedness.
Giant collages of college pennants adorn the corridors – a literal reminder of what lies ahead. And, as young students forge their own identities and consider career choices, the event served as a little bit of a reality check.
Interim Assistant Principal Erin Montague said some of the students had questioned the purpose of career Day.
“This is just the start of where they’ll be in the future,” she said.
In anticipation of Career Day, the students selected professions they were interested learning about, and staff created schedules for each of them – no small feat given that required 620 individual schedules.
AVID site coordinator Kim Matarese and science teacher Tyler Mecozzi said that their planning started back in December when they began to connect with volunteer presenters.
On Thursday there were 65 visitors including a few who remoted in from as far away as Germany and the Philippines!
Each student saw five presentations, with each talk lasting about 20 minutes, including time for questions and answers.
The guests talked about the education, training and skills were required for their work, as well as what a typical day entailed.
They also shared some useful life advice.
Greenwich physician James A. Brunetti, DO – Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine use a whole-person approach to help prevent illness and injury – emphasized the value of summer jobs.
“I first started out being a paper boy delivering papers and collecting money,” he recalled. “After that I started working with my uncle in the garbage and landscaping business – I got up early and learned how to work and communicate with people.”
From there Brunetti said he had babysat and worked in different types of nursing homes which gave him the opportunity talk to patients and learn how to be a friend to them.
Brunetti said all his early jobs helped him learn valuable communication and organizational skills.
In medical school he worked in hospitals learning how to draw blood, do EKG’s and other procedures.
“If you want to go into medicine, it’s always important to look into different ways you can be around patients, even if you just volunteer at a hospital,” he said. “You can also volunteer in doctors’ offices.”
“Any job you do should not just be a job from 9 to 5 – it should be a vocation, which is a way of living.”
He explained that to become a doctor required four years of college followed by four years of medical school. He said he’d started college when he was 7 and went straight to medical school, and missed the opportunity to have time to himself.
“Take a semester abroad,” he suggested. “I encourage you to do a gap year or do something fun…Do a year of something different before you go to medical school because you don’t really have time to travel, enjoy yourself and learn about the world when you’re in medical school.”
Importantly, Brunetti said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, or worry about how much time it will take or how much money it will cost. There’s always a way to do it. Always believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Trust your heart.”
In science teacher Alex Hauer’s classroom veterinarian Dr. Nicole Belward, an internal medicine specialist from Pieper Veterinarian in Middletown, CT, talked to students about challenges of diagnosing an animal.
She said sometimes she thought of herself as the “Dr. House” of veterinary medicine.
“I have a cat right now under my care who is basically is an episode of House. I’ve been working on this cat for weeks. This cat has also been under the care of a neurologist and dermatologist since July and we still don’t have a definitive answer what’s wrong with the cat.”
“For other patients, I see their blood work and, boom, I know exactly what’s wrong with them,” Dr. Belward added. “Some of the easiest diseases to diagnose are auto-immune diseases because they are very rapid and drastic.”
The Career Day visits ended at 11:00am. From there students began the important work of reflection and AVID One-Pagers, which are creative responses to a learning experience. And, of course, the students wrote their thank you notes.