Summer: check. Camp: check. Career Exploration: CHECK!

Southeastern Ohio middle school students enjoy a summer camp that gives them a greater connection to college- and career-readiness.

Denise Shockley, Superintendent of Gallia-Vinton ESC, had a simple goal to introduce career options to students much sooner. It all started with one question: What could we do to give students authentic real-world experiences?

She partnered with Buckeye Hills Career Center to tap into the benefits of experienced career instructors, resources and updated labs. At the same time, she relied on relationships with the local business community who had previously supported grade 8 job shadow days.

Career Palooza summer camp, in their own words

"Career Palooza was really fun and I got so much out of it. I learned about cars, cooking and health care. I had so much fun in all the classes. I liked the cooking part the best."  – Garrett Vandermolen, Jackson Middle School, Grade 7

“Career Palooza is one of the most exciting programs that I have ever been part of for middle school students! It’s a hands-on learning program that makes career exploration fun. This summer program allows our young people the opportunity to experience different career paths and learn more about themselves. The students that participated in this program made meaningful relationships with other students and were more motivated to achieve their career goals.” – Craig Wright, Principal at Gallia Academy Middle School

“It’s such a fun way for students to discover a possible career choice. Students visit work stations that allow them a hands-on experience such as taking blood pressure, using a Marcel curling iron, electronics and building a bird house. Choosing a career early helps plan the best educational path for their future.” – Sue Burleson, Cosmetology Instructor at Career Palooza

“Lots of lessons are learned during the Palooza, but the most important ones are the things the students learn about themselves regarding their own interests and aptitudes. It also broadens the students’ horizons about the careers that exist out in the greater world. This is very important for students that grow up in a rural setting.” – Kent Lewis, Buckeye Hills Career Center Superintendent

Together, they created a program that gives grade 7 students uninterrupted time to explore different careers and learn more about their own interests. The weeklong “Career Palooza” summer camp looks like this:

  • Monday through Thursday: Each student explores 12 different careers in a lab with an engaging career instructor. Rotations include auto, construction, HVAC, culinary, information technology, patient care, agriculture and more.
  • Each day’s agenda: Breakfast, two career rotation periods, lunch and one last career rotation
  • Friday: A field trip to King’s Island with the challenge to identify 25 different careers that relate back to what students learned earlier in the week

The camp was such a big hit last summer that students asked, “Can we come back?” So this summer, not only are grade 7 students invited, but those who attended last year can come back for a new grade 8 camp. The grade 8 camp narrows the career rotation focus even more and takes the students to dairy farms, construction sites, local grocery stores and other businesses.

Shockley discovered that camp is not just for kids.

“Eighty percent of our seventh graders are returning for our grade 8 program,” said Shockley. “And 95 percent of our teachers, instructors and principals are proactive about staying involved in the camp.”

The career instructors enjoy planning the courses. District teachers and principals also join the camp at the career center along with their home school students. Local businesses appreciate the more structured time to introduce students to their industries.

Although the summer camp is a logistical exercise to bring together students from three rural counties and visit local businesses, the payoff is catching the interest of middle school students at a younger age to explore their career options. The Ohio Department of Education applauds programs like the one Gallia-Vinton ESC is leading to give students the opportunity to discover diverse work environments and understand how to start planning for their futures.

Your turn!

What ways can you partner locally to create a greater, authentic connection to college- and career-readiness?

What’s your story?

Are you thinking differently about career connections during summer break? Email us.

Last Modified: 7/24/2015 12:14:38 PM