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Monday, October 23, 2017

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Students Exploring Career Opportunities Expo educates Central Louisiana students about careers
Tammy Moreau and Kathy Gunn
/ Categories: Press Releases, Education

Students Exploring Career Opportunities Expo educates Central Louisiana students about careers

Interactive, student-focused event draws 2,799

The 2017 Students Exploring Career Opportunities Expo exposed Central Louisiana students to different career opportunities so they will be better prepared during their high school years when choosing a pathway into the workforce, a technical school or college.

The SECO Expo is presented by The Orchard Foundation and the nine public school districts in Central Louisiana, with funding from The Rapides Foundation, International Paper, Weyerhaeuser, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Louisiana, and Capital One. The January event, held at the Alexandria Riverfront Center, was the third SECO event in Central Louisiana and attracted 2,799 students. Students traveled from the nine public school districts of Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes. 

SECO is an interactive, student-focused event in Louisiana that introduces public school students to career possibilities. The SECO Expo allowed students to experience simulations and hands-on activities at more than 40 stations staffed by area businesses with the goal of fostering student engagement and ultimately sparking an interest in future careers. Click here to view the SECO Photo Gallery from January 2017. 

“The idea is to get young people to start thinking about careers, so they’ll have a better idea of what they want to do after they graduate high school, whether it be entering the workforce or heading to college or a technical school,” said Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation. “We want to thank the industry partners who participated in the event.” 

The Orchard Foundation is a local education fund established by The Rapides Foundation. Orchard works with school districts, businesses and communities to improve educational opportunities in Central Louisiana. Orchard receives funding from The Rapides Foundation to administer many of the programs developed under its Education Initiative.

“The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative seeks to increase the level of educational attainment and achievement in Central Louisiana as the primary path to improved economic, social and health status. The initiative includes a focus on Career and Postsecondary Readiness as well as college and career counseling to prepare students for careers after they graduate,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “Events like SECO support the link between education and workforce development efforts in Central Louisiana.”

Thirty-one Central Louisiana businesses participated in the expo by setting up interactive displays designed to give students an idea of what it’s like to work in their industries. Through participation, business and community leaders played an active role in helping the students make informed career decisions, while making a long-term investment for a better Cenla workforce in the future. 

Businesses said they appreciated the opportunity to build career awareness for their industries and to generate leads for future hires.

“Preparing young adults for success requires a different educational experience than it did even a generation ago,” said Valerie Aymond, Chief Resource Officer for Gilchrist Construction. “At Gilchrist, we know one way to do this is by contributing to regional activities like SECO that are designed to engage students. We enjoyed the opportunity to introduce young people to the meaningful and fulfilling careers that exist in the heavy highway and construction industry.”

During the expo, students voted on their favorite exhibits throughout the two-day event. Winners were chosen for each career zone. The four Student Choice Awards winners were: MedExpress and Grant High School First Responders; Montgomery Animal Clinic; Central Louisiana Technical Community College; and Unitech. Photos of each winner accepting their award can be seen in the gallery below. 

Students chose their favorite booth for each of the four career zones.

Students chose their favorite booth for each of the four career zones.

SECO was originally launched through a state of Louisiana Jump Start grant, a program for school districts, colleges and businesses to collaborate in providing career courses and workplace experiences to lead students to career fields most likely to lead to high-wage jobs. When students enter ninth grade, Jump Start is an elective path for students pursuing a university-preparatory diploma, and a required path for students pursuing a Career Diploma. These “pathways” into the workforce, a technical school or college will help students be better prepared for life after high school. Providing career information to this age group can also help make school more relevant and can be a key contributor for them to stay in school and graduate.

The next SECO event is scheduled for November 15-16 at the Alexandria Riverfront Center and will focus on 10th graders. For more information about SECO, contact The Orchard Foundation at 318-767-6560 or toll-free at 800-804-8454.

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