Jackson Memorial Middle School eighth-grade students spent March 18 exploring careers during the schools annual Career Day event.

JACKSON TWP.  Jackson Memorial Middle School eighth-grader Maria Mitri loves to write. Turning that love into a career is at the top of her career to-do list.  And while her focus was not changed by the school’s annual Career Day March 18, the event did open Maria’s eyes.

“When someone talks about an author, everyone thinks of (someone like) J.K. Rowling,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to speaking with local Canton author and Career Day presenter, Stacey Trombley. “I think this event is great – it goes beneath the surface and opens us up to a lot of opportunities. And you see so many kids who never seemed interested before who are so into this.”

Personally, Maria said, she gleaned a lot of information from the physical therapists at Career Day.

“I have a family full of doctors, too,” she said with a smile.

Jackson Memorial’s Career Day is held each year to introduce eighth-grade students to a large variety of careers, said Desiree Lopez, a sixth-grade counselor and Career Day coordinator.

“Our goal is to expose these students to multiple career fields, giving them the opportunity to inquire, interact and learn from local professionals in our community,” Lopez said. “This exposure will motivate students to think about possible career options and begin planning for the high school coursework needed to reach their ultimate goal.”

In the weeks leading up to Career Day, students discuss career interests in their respective social studies classes, along with charting a college and career course to best prepare them for that career. 

Meanwhile, Lopez said, she contacts local businesses and “clusters” them by general field – such as advertising, business, or medical – for the expo.

“We have 50 businesses and about 75 people today,” Lopez said. “They love to help and are flattered – a good number of them return each year.”

Students come prepared with specific interview instructions and questions for the employers, such as required academic preparation, job expectations, work schedules, salary range and employment opportunities in the field. 

This year, Lopez said, students also created their own questions to expand the discussion, with interest in technology-related jobs running particularly high. This made areas like the Glass Slate Digital/Communications Exhibits, Inc. table predictably popular spots, where students test drove virtual reality goggles, watched a silhouette-projection presentation – think sales pitch from a holographic account executive – and got hands-on experience with technology that until  recently could have fallen under the category of science fiction.

Brian Walters is chief technology officer for Canal Fulton-based Glass Slate Digital, and vice president of its sister company, CEI. The technology, Walters said, has already been put to use – or soon will be – at places such as Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

As a Jackson Schools parent himself, Walters said he jumped at the chance to participate in Career Day.

“This is really great to give them a real-life introduction,” Walters said, pointing out that his own childhood interest in art that eventually led to his graphic design career had plenty of detours that may have been mitigated by such early exposure to available career options.

Nathan Gilham is another of the 500 students at Career Day who now has that chance.

“It gave me an idea of what I have to do in high school to go into it,” said the hopeful future engineer.

He added that he was surprised at the number of career and educational opportunities available.

“And (the presenters) have the personal experience,” Nathan said.

Evidently, the presenters got as much out of the experience as the students.

“I love teaching and supporting young readers,” said Trembley, whose debut young adult contemporary title, “Naked,” was published last year by Entangled Teen, with her sophomore release expected later to come out this year.

Trembley’s table illustrated how many authors earn a living doing what they love, even if they don’t reach J.K. Rowling-level notoriety.

“Some of (the students) said they have whole stories written, and I pointed out to them that even a 13-year-old boy has been published,” Trembley said.

Preparation at an early age, in fact, is the point of the entire program, according to Lopez.

“This is an amazing event where local professionals give their time to help inspire our youth,” she said.