Rep. Steve Holland, left, meets Jonathan Sanchez, 15, during Friday's ICAP career fair, where Holland spoke to Sannon Middle School eighth-graders about working in government service.

Eighth-graders from Shannon and Plantersville middle schools expanded their eventual career possibilities Friday. More than 150 of the students attended a three-hour career fair arranged and hosted by the local chapter of the not-for-profit Parents for Public Schools.

The undertaking was part of the Individual Career and Academic Plan Initiative (ICAP), a nationwide effort to stem dropout rates while aligning curriculum with students’ planned career paths.

“I want to be a barber,” said 15-year-old Jonathan Sanchez of Shannon to Miss. Rep. Steve Holland, who spoke to the students about working in government. Holland was among about a dozen people, businesses and potential employers who set up booths in the Shannon High School gymnasium.

Presenters ranged from WTVA television station to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to Hyperion Technology Group and Crop Production Services, among others.

David Harris and Gerald Godbold, engineers with Hyperion, displayed some of their tornado-chasing equipment. Their videos of tornadoes were particularly interesting to the students.

Shannon student Alonzo Phelps, 14, listened intently to Scott Richardson, human resources manager for JESCO construction company.

“I’d like to do construction and architecture,” said Phelps.

Some students were unsure of their eventual career choices: “I think I want to be a pediatrician but I’m not sure,” said 14-year-old Plantersville student Rebecca Morphis.

“Or I’d like to have my own business, maybe a clothing store.”

Kayla Dillard, 15, of Shannon had a one-word answer for her future: “Nursing.”

“Things are very different than when I was in school,” said Shannon Harlow, eighth-grade English teacher at Plantersville and one of the chaperones for the morning. “Today, a high-school diploma is an absolute necessity. It’s getting to where a two-year college degree is like a high-school diploma.”

Harlow said most of her students were “very focused” on presenters’ career suggestions while some were more interested in free time away from school.

“When we get back to school,” she said, “we will reflect on the day, which speakers were most interesting and what the students were interested in.” She added that students’ career choices change often; some boys want to be coaches, while some girls are interested in fashion design. But it could be something different the next day.

Henry Harper, a certified Parent for Public Schools, arranged the career fair. He explained that Parents for Public Schools is a nationwide effort headquartered in Jackson, Miss. Harper spoke with administrators from both the schools after the event.

“They said some students had already set their minds on career paths but many of them have decided to change that.”

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