For Westview Middle School in Pflugerville Independent School District, February was a big month for career exploration.

Sixteen eighth graders, participating in the civics program Speak Up, Speak Out, hosted their school’s first career fair on February 7 with assistance from Victoria Leonardo, our Career & Education Outreach Specialist for Pflugerville Independent School District.

Speak Up, Speak Out is a civic education program designed to teach third grade through twelfth grade students about their communities, and is led by the Moody College of Communication at the university of Texas at Austin.

“Many of the students have parents who work low-skill jobs, so the youth think that’s all that is available to them,” Victoria said. “With this event, we can introduce them to many different occupations that they may have not thought about before and understand what it takes to get these jobs.”

Eighth grader Camila Valdez said, “It’s about how students aren’t well informed about careers. We want to help them take better paths to a better future.”

Eight hundred fifty students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades attended the career fair in the school’s gym and interacted with 16 partners, including Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Carpenters Local 1266, and Westview’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers.

To fill the gym with vendors to speak to students, the organizers worked together to make a lot of phone calls, according to Jasmine Cortes, a Speak Up, Speak Out member: “We started by contacting people to come. We worked together to find people to come, and our teacher put in time to contact people. We planned it all in a short time.”

Alfredo Mendoza helped create banners for the partners and set up tables beforehand: “I was nervous at the beginning, but by working together we got it done. I saw a lot of kids interacting and enjoying the career fair,” he said.

Candace Hennessy is a recruiting coordinator for Parsley Energy who attended the career fair. “It was a great first experience for me. Most of the kids were engaged and all of them were respectful, so it was fun interacting with them,” she said.

Jennifer Painter-Beillon, Round Rock Campus Director for Central Texas Beauty College, said, “The kids were so engaging. Better engagement than any other school we’ve been to, including the high schools.”

Our team of outreach specialists serve students in grades 6 through 12 in Austin, Del Valle, Elgin, Manor and Pflugerville ISDs. This is a two-year program in partnership with school districts throughout the Austin metro area, for which we received a Workforce Career and Education Outreach Specialist Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Our team of specialists has served more than 11,000 students since the grant began in July 2019.

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