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Middle school youth explore nontraditional careers at MU

A young woman in black holds up two fingers.

Middle school students and teachers get ready a day of discovery and learning at the kickoff of the nontraditional career exploration day, April 4. Photo by Melissa Grindstaff, MU College of Education.

More than 70 middle school students became Mizzou Tigers for a day at a nontraditional career exploration event sponsored by University of Missouri campus partners and Commerce Bank on Wednesday, April 4.

Students extracted DNA from a banana in a biochemistry lab, observed lungs inflating with oxygen during a respiratory therapy session and met a newly born lamb at an animal science workshop. Students got an up-close look at aerospace technology with a NASA turbine jet engine, experienced wonders of the world in a virtual reality engineering lab and learned about food science and production during a visit to Buck’s Ice Cream.

Jim Spain, Interim Provost for MU, welcomed students and encouraged them to explore career interests, set goals, and make big plans for their education beyond high school.

Organizers said the goal of the career day was to expose seventh and eighth grade students to nontraditional career paths, where they may find that spark of excitement and interest to guide future college and career choices. (Nontraditional careers, according to Perkins nontraditional career and technical education, are those in which males or females comprise less than 25 percent of employment in those occupations.) Career day tracks encouraged female students to explore agriculture, natural resource and engineering careers, and male students to consider options in health professions.

MU student ambassadors accompanied middle school students during their time on campus, including visits to classrooms and labs of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, College of Engineering, and School of Health Professions. Students met with MU faculty and administrators, participated in interactive workshops and tours, and took their lunch break alongside MU students in campus dining halls.

Participating school groups included Gentry Middle School and Lange Middle School (Columbia), Hallsville Middle School, Macks Creek Middle School, Mexico Middle School, Holman Middle School (Pattonville), and Carr Lane Middle School, Compton-Drew Middle School, and Yeatman-Liddle Middle School (St. Louis).

Organizers included Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Career Pathways Initiative, and University of Missouri 4-H Center for Youth Development, in coordination with MU Admissions and The Connector at MU. Event organizers said planning for the next career exploration day is already underway for Nov. 2018.

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