Students find magic at career fair

URBANA – Recruiters and information providers who attended Urbana High School's annual career day didn't need magic to attract students to their tables.

But it certainly didn't hurt.

Andy Dallas, owner of Dallas & Co. in Champaign, spent his time at the career fair showing dozens of students card and magic tricks, sneaking in information about the field.

"It gives you a perspective of something other than a college career or the military or work," he said. "Magic and the variety arts area are a career, if you want to make it that."

Many other areas, including college and several fields of work, were represented at about 60 tables of information about various careers, from medicine to design to auto repair. The fair, dubbed "Red Hot Careers," was exclusively for sophomores, who were broken up into two groups to keep the event from overcrowding.

School counselor Sam Furrer said that sophomores were selected to participate because they still had ample time during high school to direct their courseloads to specific careers.

"We want to make this an exploratory experience for the students," said fair organizer Jeannie Williams, a career and technology educator at Urbana. "We try and make every student feel like there's a place for them."

She said that selections of the type of careers represented was made by both a faculty committee and the results of student surveys. The fair was also intended to provide a range of careers for students planning on finishing their formal education at many levels.

Student Katie Lamb visited the emergency medical technicians table. She said she likes helping people and, at the fair, learned "how much college it takes to do it and good ways to get into it."

Scott Miller, regional manager of Tatman's Collision Repair, estimated he had talked with at least 15 people midway through the fair.

"Most of them want to know what a typical day's like," he said. "Not very many of them have asked about money."

For Miller, talking with sophomores is ideal, since he first formed his interest in cars at 15, when his father bought him one.

"I found that people would pay me to do something that I love to do," he said. "I've tried to tell (the students), ... 'find something that you like to do and make it your job.'"

Before entering the fair, students listened to a brief keynote speech from Alexandra Harold, a reporter at WCIA 3.

Harold gave them three pieces of advice, drawn from her experiences in journalism. She told them to identify sources, ask the right questions and listen to the answers.

Fair organizers provided extra impetus for the second part. For every question a student asked a professional, he or she would receive a raffle ticket. Best Buy gift certificates were the prizes.

Former medical director of Urbana's school health center Dr. Kimberly Glow said she wished she'd had a resource for information about medical careers when she was starting out.

"When I went into medicine, I didn't have anyone to talk to and ask questions," she said.

At the fair, Glow talked to students about what the field is really like.

"For me, I ended up doing 16 years (of schooling) after high school," she said. "Some of them wanted to be doctors on television – not the same thing."

Though some tables proved more popular than others, each attracted several interested students.

"I was looking at the X-ray stuff over there," said student Garrett Bradley of the visual aids at the radiology table. "It looks pretty cool."

Bradley isn't sure what he wants to do yet, but has some ideas. "I kind of want to be in education or police," he said of two fields both represented at the fair. "I actually love talking with people."

Student Kelly Rose said at many levels she has already trod several steps along her career path.

"I've done a lot with veterinary medicine," she said, "I now currently work at A&E (Animal Hospital)."

Despite knowing her goal, Rose still finds the fair useful.

"It gives a lot of good insight about certain jobs and what it's like," she said.

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