Editorials

Why it’s important for eighth-graders to get their hands on the right career

Students crowd around a Mississippi Power booth to see an experiment with dry ice at the Pathways2Possibilities career expo in November 2015. The two day event offers 8th graders from the six lower counties in Mississippi a chance to explore various potential career paths ranging from finance and human services to aerospace and marine science.
Students crowd around a Mississippi Power booth to see an experiment with dry ice at the Pathways2Possibilities career expo in November 2015. The two day event offers 8th graders from the six lower counties in Mississippi a chance to explore various potential career paths ranging from finance and human services to aerospace and marine science. amccoy@sunherald.com File

Pathways2Possibilities, a career expo for eighth-graders and at-risk teens and young adults, is growing and spreading for a simple reason: It works.

In its fifth year, thousands of curious kids from more than 30 schools in eight South Mississippi counties will fill the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center to get their hands on the latest career paths. They’ll build walls, shoot TV shows, create art and imagine the possibility of a career with one of the 100 employers showcasing 11 career paths. They’ll learn about marketing, manufacturing, public safety, information technology, human services, transportation, health science, government, finance, engineering, energy, education, business management, arts and communication, architecture and construction and aerospace careers.

The Dr. Maxine Harper Center of Educational Research and Evaluation at the University of Mississippi started studying the expo in 2015. It found among students who attended the expo:

▪  A statistically significant increase in the percentage of students who said they were very interested in thinking about a career pathway;

▪  A significant increase in the number who said they were mostly or very sure they knew what they wanted to do for a career;

▪  A statistically significant increase in the percentage of students who said they were likely or very likely to complete a four-year college degree and an advanced degree;

▪  And a significant decrease in the percentage of students who said they were uncertain about what they would do after high school.

Students told the researchers they particularly like to be able to roam the expo unguided and try whatever catches their eyes.

“I could walk around and find what I wanted to do instead of the teachers getting in the way and trying to pick for me,” one said.

The success of Pathways2Possibilities has spread to P2P Delta in Northwest Mississippi and to Imagine the Possibilities in Tupelo.

And none of this would have happened without the dedication of three women. After the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Education Issue Manager Group checked out Worlds of Opportunity in Mobile, Diann Payne decided she would own a similar project in South Mississippi. She contracted with Paige Roberts and Karen Sock to coordinate the expo that would become Pathways2Possibilities.

Thanks to them, an untold number of volunteers and the businesses they recruited, students can enter high school with a better understanding of the careers right here in South Mississippi. And for young adults who have lost their drive to succeed, P2P can get them back on that path.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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