Nearly 200 local students from five local school districts came to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Marion County Fairgrounds to explore options for their future careers. Representatives from a variety of fields including manufacturing, small business owners, health, and law enforcement came to encourage these students to explore many possibilities.
The event was the brainchild of LaToya Tyler, an admissions counselor at Marion Technical College in 2021. She wanted students of all backgrounds to see mentors who looked like them.
“What I hope students take away is that they have many options right in Marion. A lot of the presenters are MarionMade! There are opportunities right here,” said Kathleen Clemons-Keller, a college and career readiness coordinator at Tri-Rivers Career Center.
While students toured Marion Tech’s mobile lab, sat in a police cruiser, and competed for prizes, they also saw community members in many different fields.
“I wish they had this when I was a kid growing up in Marion. It might have helped some of my friends who were rough around the edges choose a different path in life. That’s why this is so important and so vital,” said Corey McDuffie, a success coach with Marion Matters, who helps young people learn the soft skills employers value.
“Representation matters!” said Tara Dyer, a member of the event planning committee. “I’m so glad that school districts allowed their students to participate.”
Students from Elgin, Marion City Schools, Pleasant, Ridgedale, and River Valley took part. Each student had to stop and talk to each presenter to complete a Bingo game for gift cards.
“If I can reach one kid, I’m succeeding at my job,” said Officer Montel Smith with the Marion Police Department. “I got into law enforcement to help people and give back to the community. We want to keep kids on the right path and consider a career in law enforcement. We also want to be good role models.”
“I like to think things through so when it gets to tomorrow, I can be prepared,” said Brayden Frazier, a 7th grader at River Valley.
“I like looking at the options,” said Mattix Lust, an 8th grader at River Valley.
Melissa Stacy with OhioHealth asked students what they wanted to do when they graduated. When they said, “If I get into college…,” Stacy interrupted them by saying, “Don’t say ‘if.’ Say ‘When!’”
“I think this is fantastic. There’s a lot of pressure to know what you want to do. It’s okay not to know,” Stacy said. “It’s hard to recruit in health care. It’s more than just doctors, nurses, and blood. We have marketing. We have maintenance. You can have a great career and stay local. We want them to know what exciting things are going on in Marion.”
“This is a great opportunity for students to meet people in the workforce and find mentors. It also highlights diversity,” said Dr. Erika Bower, superintendent of Ridgedale.
“There’s a sense of possibilities, choice, and options. There are more possibilities than they may have thought. There are people that look like you out in the community doing careers that are adventuresome. Those possibilities are options for you as well,” said Dr. Matt Hollander, faculty at Marion Tech. “The students are engaged. The exhibitors are fantastic. I’m overjoyed this event took place.”
“This is something that builds awareness about dreams and possibilities,” said Crystal Slone with the Center Street Community Health Center. “I like that it reflects a variety of options, including college degrees, trades, and manufacturing.”
“This was an amazing start for young folks in this community. It tells them: We see you. We want you to feel seen and heard. This is a big deal,” said Tecca Thompson with Sacred Health Spaces.
“Growing up, I never thought I would have my own business,” said Rodney Robertson, owner of Pop’N Roll’N. “When minority entrepreneurs thrive, it has a positive impact. They can help other minority entrepreneurs.”
“It’s great to be able to come and see kids in my community and to be an encouragement to finish school and do what you want to do,” said Trooper Kamal Nelson of Marion.