Cenla tenth graders looking ahead to careers
The Orchard Foundation held its annual Students Exploring Career Opportunities (SECO) Expo on November 14 and 15 at the Alexandria Riverfront Center. SECO is an interactive career expo for Central Louisiana tenth graders designed to introduce students to career possibilities.
View the 2018 SECO Photo Gallery
The SECO Expo allows students to experience simulations and hands-on activities at a variety of stations staffed by area businesses with the goal of fostering student engagement and ultimately sparking an interest in future careers. This is the fifth SECO event presented by The Orchard Foundation, The Rapides Foundation and the nine public school districts in Central Louisiana.
SECO was attended by almost 3,000 tenth grade public, private and home-schooled students from nine Central Louisiana parishes over the two-day period. Students traveled from Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes.
The event is funded by The Rapides Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Capital One, Sam’s Club and the North Mall Drive Walmart in Alexandria.
“From the business perspective it’s very important that they start engaging with students as early as they can,” explained Dr. Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation. “Obviously at the tenth grade level the conversations between the students and employers are more engaging because students have an idea as to what their interests are, and they are prepared with questions. The business partners really appreciate that.”
The purpose of the SECO Expo is to allow tenth grade students to learn about different career opportunities available in Central Louisiana and the requirements of those careers, so they will be better informed to choose a path into the workforce. Tenth grade students must choose to pursue the TOPS University diploma or the Jump Start TOPS Tech diploma at the end of their sophomore year based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s plan to implement these pathways to help prepare students for future success.
Deona Austin, School Counselor at Winnfield Senior High School, said SECO allows students to see what’s coming ahead and what’s going to be required of them. “By coming to SECO, students are able to interact with some businesses that we don’t have in our area and it peaks their interest a little bit,” she said. “It makes them start to realize that adulthood is coming and that there are responsibilities coming up too.”
Cenla businesses set up interactive exhibits to represent various career clusters including healthcare, information technology, public safety, manufacturing, education, construction and more. Through participation, business and community leaders play an active role in helping students make informed career decisions, while making a long-term investment for a better Cenla workforce in the future.
Stella-Jones is a manufacturing company and one of the business partners which has participated in annual SECO events. Plant Manager Steve Bryant explained, “Stella-Jones believes the future begins early and by supporting local community programs such as SECO not only can we give back to Cenla but also help develop our future workforce.”
The Orchard Foundation wants businesses to know how much their participation is valued. “We’re so appreciative of the activities the businesses provide,” Taylor said. “They make the activities as interactive as they possibly can so students are engaged. We’re just very pleased every year with the numbers of new activities they bring, the uniqueness of it, the creativity that’s involved and the commitment of time it takes to be here with the students for two days.”
Each year, students attending SECO are asked to vote on the interactive business booth in each of the four industry zones they enjoyed the most. The 2018 SECO Student Choice Award winners were:
· Zone 1: First place-Grant High School Emergency Medical Responder Class and MedExpress; Second place-Rapides Regional Medical Center; Third place-Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office.
· Zone 2: First place-Gilchrist Construction Company and CAT; Second place-Army National Guard; Third place-LSUA Allied Health Department.
· Zone 3: First place-Procter & Gamble; Second place-Stella-Jones Corporation; Third place-Cleco.
· Zone 4: First place-Unitech Training Academy; Second place-LSUA Education Department; Third place-LSUA Department of Business Administration.
If interested in participating in the 2019 SECO event, businesses should contact The Orchard Foundation at 318-767-6561.