JA Inspire expands student opportunities in year two at Berry Center

February 12, 2015

More than 8,000 CFISD eighth-grade students attended one of three JA Inspire sessions Feb. 9-11 at the Berry Center.

Feb. 12, 2015—More than 8,000 students from 18 CFISD middle schools made connections to potential careers while participating in Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas (JASET)’s second annual job awareness fair, JA Inspire, Feb. 9-11.

The three-day event at the Berry Center capped a nine-day effort for JASET, which expanded JA Inspire to Lee College and Pasadena, serving 14 total school districts and 20,000 students after piloting the program in CFISD in 2014.

“The feedback we received from parents, teachers and students last year was that, as the students transitioned into high school, this experience was invaluable to them,” said Rick Franke, JASET president. “The opportunity for these eighth-graders to gain exposure to businesses of all types throughout southeast Texas will give them a great chance to make key decisions as they choose their career and education paths going forward.”

Each day began with a morning welcome session for all students in the Berry Center arena. Students then divided into three groups that rotated between industry presentations in the conference center, displays in the parking lot and exhibitors in the second-floor concourse.

Students were divided up by four endorsement tracks (STEM, business and industry, public services or arts and humanities) that they had selected beforehand to receive a more specialized experience.

“These are students who are going to be asked to make decisions about endorsements for their high school years, so this allows them to increase exposure to that,” said Dr. Linda Macias, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction and accountability. “As they go through each session they hear what it takes in high school to be an engineer, scientist, culinary professional and so on. When they are eventually ready to enter college or the workforce, they really will have a leg up on that.”

While perusing approximately 40 career stations on the concourse, students had a chance to speak one-on-one with company employees to learn more about their businesses.

“It’s been fantastic. The students are excited, ambitious, and ask a lot of great questions,” said Stephanie Kalil, marketing manager for rigid packaging and durables at the Dow Chemical Company. “My favorite question was a student who told me he was trying to decide whether he was going to be an astrophysicist or a chef and what discipline area he should go into between those two choices.”

Franke said the industries in attendance offered a diverse cross-section of requirements for continuing postsecondary education.

“What’s really interesting is that they’re not all simply recommending four-year college as the only answer,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities to get certifications at junior colleges such as Lone Star College and so forth; students can secure well-playing jobs through those avenues as well.”

Dr. Macias added that students from all schools and walks of life could enjoy what the program had to offer.

“I have had the opportunity to witness students explore and learn about different opportunities they didn’t even know existed out there,” she said. “We have talked to students who come from challenging, economically disadvantaged homes and those who don’t, but all of them have shared that this experience has provided them an opportunity to explore their future.”


Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas (JASET) President Rick Franke addresses the crowd of students at JA Inspire.


Senior Deputy David Hennessy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Command (HCSORC) special operations division (SOD) aviation support unit greets Goodson Middle School eighth-grade student Clifton McDowell on the first day of JA Inspire at the Berry Center.


Anthony Middle School eighth-grade student Chase Harris shakes hands with the K&M Technology Group robot at the Schlumberger booth during day two of JA Inspire at the Berry Center on Feb. 10.


Cy-Fair High School junior Madison Nicole Robinson speaks to students about her company, FishFlops, at JA Inspire.


Mauro Gregorio, business president for energy solutions at The Dow Chemical Company, speaks to students during the opening session of day two of JA Inspire at the Berry Center.


Cameron Dickey, president of the Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union, speaks to students in one of the business and industry presentations in the conference center during JA Inspire.


Olympic gymnast Jonathan Horton, a Cy-Fair High School graduate, displays the silver medal he won in the men’s horizontal bar competition during the 2008 Beijing Olympics while addressing students at JA Inspire on Feb. 11.

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