Atlantis hosted its first-ever Career and College Exposition at the UMass Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Fall River on March 15, 2018. Nearly 400 students in grades 7-10 got to talk to representatives from more than a dozen local colleges and businesses. They also heard from instructors and specialists with the Atlantis Career Academies.
The planning team organized the event with four clear-cut objectives: introduce students to Atlantis’ Academy model, make students aware of the exciting opportunities ahead of them, help them understand how the information and skills they are learning right now in school will help them in the future, and make a college and/or career pathway an attractive goal for these students to achieve.
“Our Academy model speaks for itself,” said Joanne Rahme, a member of the Atlantis Executive Administrative Team. “But our students also need to have inspiration, awareness, and exploration in creating their own career pathways at an earlier age. This event brought our Academy model and the greater Fall River Community together to showcase career expertise and college opportunity.”
Presenters set up information tables to showcase their businesses and share their own career pathways with the students. They answered questions about the companies they work for, what a typical day is like on the job, and how they prepared for their line of work.
Most of the businesses came from the Fall River area and represented an array of careers, from financial services, to social services, and even aeronautics. Some of the presenters were partners who helped develop the career academy model and some were Atlantis parents. Admissions offices from four local colleges were also represented.
“We tried to target colleges that had programs and pathways that aligned with the academy model we have here at Atlantis,” said Michelle Carreiro, Family Partnership Initiative Coordinator.
To help students get the most out of the experience, students completed grade-level appropriate activities. Seventh and eighth graders completed a scavenger hunt, and students in ninth and tenth graders filled out a passport with the information they learned. This encouraged the students to go up to the tables, ask questions and learn. In the days leading up to the event, students received tips in class on how to present themselves in a proper manner.
In the presentation room, students attended a panel discussion led by guidance counselor Katie Lockwood and several adjunct instructors with the career academies. The instructors provided students with an overview of their academies and discussed some of the objectives.
“One of the overall goals is to get our kids excited about staying at ACS, especially now that we have the new campus,” said Donalda Silva, Family Community Resource Center Coordinator at Atlantis. “The earlier we can get them, the better, so they can stay in Atlantis.”
Atlantis developed its five career academies in consultation with its higher education and industry partners. The academies give students a hands-on introduction to today’s in-demand careers such as STEM, business, and medicine. Classes are taught by adjunct instructors in block schedules like colleges. Students have opportunities to visit colleges and businesses related to their field of interest and Seniors complete internships.
While not on the original agenda, some students received tours of the business incubator. Two of the presenters have labs and offices at the Center and invited students to see their work. In addition to presenting their work, they shared their passion and expertise. The planning team hopes to make the tour an official part of the event next year.
Family Partnership Initiative Coordinator Melissa St. Pierre says the experience had a huge impact on the students. “We had 3D printers there, we had graphic animation, and we had robots from the robotics lab at the BIC. The kids were really loving it, to explore with their hands and see what could be created through the educational pathways.”
Planning for next year’s career fair is already underway. The planning team promises it will be even bigger and better than this year. Students and teachers are now completing surveys to provide feedback on how to improve the quality of the day.