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Conference gives career guidance to Parkway District eighth-graders

Central Middle students Brian Viera, Corbin Sheridan and Matt Chen with Michael Sandford at Parkway’s first-ever Career Conference.

Central Middle students Brian Viera, Corbin Sheridan and Matt Chen with Michael Sandford at Parkway’s first-ever Career Conference.

About 1,400 Parkway eighth-graders got an early look at possible future careers, as well as a chance to think about high school course selection during the district’s first-ever Career Conference, held Dec. 3-4 at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.

More than 80 presenters in a wide variety of fields were on hand to offer the students the chance to ask questions and learn what it takes to be successful in a job.

Amy Belding, Parkway’s career and technical education and choice programs coordinator, said the event’s purpose was to ensure that students are making informed choices about the courses they take when making the transition to high school.

Donna Zumwinkel, a St. Louis Community College career counselor and parent of an eighth-grader, called the program “fabulous.”

“It’s important to begin early to introduce kids to the vast array of careers available and high school course selections to make that happen,” Zumwinkel said.

Presenters spoke on what their careers look like, including day-to-day dealings, hours they work, how they got started in their careers, what high school classes helped them out, salary ranges and other topics, Belding said.

In the community college gym, professionals were divided into “pathway” career areas, like arts and communication, health services, industrial and engineering technology, human services/ natural resources/agriculture, and business/management. Erin Schulte, Parkway’s coordinator of counseling, guidance and character education, said participating students previously had created an online career inventory that pointed them toward those pathways.

At one table, Dr. Adam Wehrmeister, a dentist and a Parkway parent whose mother also works in a Parkway school, talked to youngsters about what he enjoys about his job, such as the variety of patients and conditions he treats, being able to work with his hands and helping people.

“My own daughter was here today, though she didn’t come to my table,” he joked. “As a parent, I feel this is a great opportunity to let kids learn about their options.”

Parkway Northeast Middle student Amy Jordan asked Wehrmeister about working for other people as opposed to working on his own.

“I’m not sure what I want to be yet but it helps to get ideas from a lot of different people,” Jordan said.

Andy Hixson, Manchester’s city administrator and a conference presenter, said he hoped to encourage kids to get into local government work.

“I got a lot of good questions asked,” Hixson said. “One student asked if I wanted to change anything about my job. I said the only thing I’d change is to have Manchester be on a beach somewhere!”

Parkway Northeast Middle student Daniel Swiener agreed, saying that the conference “has given me a wide perspective about things I can do in the future.”

A highlight for the students was having the chance to meet so many people.

Parkway West Middle student Wonsang Lee said he was interested in the tech field.

“I asked people how they did their jobs and how they solved problems,” he said. “They gave me some good course ideas for high school.”

Emily Lofgren, also from Parkway West Middle, said she is hoping to go into teaching.

“The questions we asked were all up to us,” she said. “It was fun, giving me a lot of information and opening up choices in careers that I hadn’t thought about.”

Parkway West Middle student Emily Weaver called the conference “a head start to help me know what I want to do going into high school.”

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