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Getting a Taste of the Future

Students wear construction hatsAt Ferguson Township Elementary’s first Career Café, students recently got a taste of what they could grow up to be.


One table featured a veterinarian showing how she treats animals. Another had a sports performance coach leading exercises. Also sharing were an architect, a registered nurse, a mental health counselor, a physician, a paramedic with an ambulance to tour, an ice hockey coach, and an astronomer — some of the 17 presenters largely drawn from school parents who volunteered to spend the day discussing their jobs.


Throughout the day, students visited the all-purpose room by grades, rotating among tables to learn about the various occupations, just as FTE counselor Dawn Lorenz envisioned when she thought of the idea for the event. The goal was to give students the opportunity to interact with community members while having such fun moments as trying on safety goggles and hard hats worn by architects or experiencing artificial intelligence by chatting with a robot.


“It’s really a fantastic opportunity for students to touch, to feel, to see that this world of careers is out there, and to see it’s right outside our doors,” Lorenz said. “The whole purpose of the Career Café was to link the kiddos to the community, and also to show our community members how grateful we are for them.”


Lorenz’s inspiration came from attending a school counselor conference which highlighted pushes to include career development in counseling curricula. It led her to think about ways of introducing elementary students to possible careers throughout the year, as opposed to a lesson or two that may not sink in. Having a Career Café seemed like an exciting, interactive approach to engaging students and sparking their curiosity about different paths to choose.


“It just starts that conversation a little earlier, and it helps them understand that we’re all connected to this really great community,” Lorenz said.


Students look at a robot

As a school ambassador, fifth-grader William Reimherr helped set up the event. When it was his turn to participate, he lingered at a videography crew’s table full of equipment.


“It was fun to see how they use the cameras because they had special equipment to control each individual camera, and some cameras were robotic and were controlled by a mini-control panel,” he said. “Other ones, they were a lot bigger and you had to manually use them.”


He also enjoyed asking the AI robot questions and hearing it answer “efficiently.” Overall, he thought “it was pretty exciting to see all the jobs” and that his classmates benefited from the event.


“I think it’s nice that they know a bunch of different jobs that they could experience doing, and if they were to enjoy one, maybe it could be something they do further along the line,” he said.


Suzanne Kijewski, a scientist who works as a technology licensing officer at Penn State, told her daughter’s friends and other students interested in science about helping patent and license technologies. She said the Career Café could help students pursue interests long before they grow up.


“I think this tells students about options,” Kijewski said. “They know about doctors, lawyers, things like that, but I didn’t know my job was a job when I was in school. With Penn State here, there are a lot of different options to do camps and learn things before it’s time to pick a career. So if they find something they’re interested in, they could try to do that sort of camp or find another opportunity early and see if they actually like doing it.”


Students look at a TV cameraLike Kijewski, architect Jennifer Yourey enjoyed speaking about her profession at her son’s school. While handing out glasses, hats and vests to try on, she fielded questions about how she designs buildings.


“It was a blast. We moved here three months ago, and our previous school never offered anything like this,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids to see what’s out there and ask questions. They’re still young and have a long way to go, but it puts in their mind some possibilities. So I’m glad I could be a part of it. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”


Lorenz said she’s thankful that she can already plan a sequel.


“We’re very fortunate for our school and community to have this kind of parent network that allows us to put this on for our kids,” she said. “They’re going to remember this.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Published Nov. 30, 2023


Career Café Presenters


Jennifer Yourey, architect

John Horn, virtual design and construction

Jamie Kennea, astronomer

Becky Friedenberg, mental health counselor

Katie Renaud, registered nurse

Marjorie Miller, religious school director

Natalie Harrison, IT accessibility consultant

Suzanne Kijewski, technology licensing officer

Jake Clements, image scientist

Shelly Mannino, veterinarian

Natalie Tussey, family medicine physician

David Crandall, computer science professor and researcher

Scott Everhart, sports performance coach

Daniel Forster, paramedic

Adam Wittenrich, videographer

Jeffery Kampersal, women’s ice hockey coach

Susan Chyczewski, WPSU career resources