Forum helps students focus on the future

  • Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 9:46 p.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 1:34 p.m.
Aiken High School students, from left, Lane Cook, Taylor Gegy and Marcus Cox attend a career-based youth forum at Aiken Technical College on Tuesday.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Aiken High School students, from left, Lane Cook, Taylor Gegy and Marcus Cox attend a career-based youth forum at Aiken Technical College on Tuesday.

A 2014 Youth Forum at Aiken Technical College attracted about 250 students from Aiken County School District high schools, as well as those from Barnwell County – encouraging them to focus on the future in a productive way.

ATC hosted the event, which was coordinated by the Lower Savannah Regional Education Center in Aiken, in conjunction with the Lower Savannah Council of Governments and other organizations.

The guest speakers discussed careers and education, said the center's coordinator, Joni McDaniel. “Maybe the students are starting to actually realize they need to come up with a plan.”

Ariel Shaw is headed to Voorhees College in the fall to major in biology. The forum caught Shaw's attention as an opportunity to look beyond her admission to college. She recognizes that she will be in the real world and going out on her own.

“This is a worthwhile program today,” Shaw said. “I hadn't really experienced the college classroom, with only a glimpse inside college life. Whether it's a technical school or university, you still have to do the work in making decisions.”

That's precisely the intent of forum participants. Dr. Gemma Frock, ATC's vice president for education and training, told the students how she had finished high school and started out in a low-paying job before moving on to long-term goals.

Some of the high school students had expressed an interest in nursing, and, “Imagine yourself working as a nurse,” Frock said. “The second thing is to write it down, such as that you will be a nurse by 2017.”

Brooks Harper, a career development author and speaker from Columbia, wanted the students to understand how competitive and global the job market has become.

“India has more honor students than America has students,” Harper said in an earlier interview. “I encourage students on what they can do right now to increase the chances of finding gainful employment.”

Industry professionals giving presentations included Monica Key, Bridgestone; Jana James, Georgia Regents University Medical Center; Capt. Eric Abdullah, Aiken County Sheriff's Department; and Brad Swanson, Energy Solutions. ATC faculty members discussed how the college's programs could help students choose a career.

Julia Lamer, a South Aiken High School, is considering ATC, but through a different path.

“I've contracted with the Navy as a machinist mate in engineering,” she said. “This experience is a good opportunity to see other choices so you can plan ahead, where you want to be later on. I've heard how Aiken Tech is good with veterans, which can help us integrate back into civilian life.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.

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