Students attend career workshop

Choosing a career is one of those big decisions that only students who are graduating from high school or college have to think about, right?

Not according to the organizers of a recent career program held at Russellville Middle School.

Deanna Hollimon, the vice principal at RMS, said the junior high years, particularly in the eighth grade, are an important time for a student to begin forming essential opinions about their potential career.

“Our eighth grade students are soon to be headed to the high school, and their grades, extracurricular participation and community involvement will begin counting towards their future college acceptance,” Hollimon said.

“Most of the time, students aren’t thinking about planning ahead for their future when they are in the eighth grade, but this is the time to start making some of those decisions and to plan ahead for the coming years.”

Because of this, Hollimon said she and RMS guidance counselor Linda McAlister had already been considering plans for a career day for their eighth grade students when they were approached by RCS curriculum coordinator Susan Hall about a unique opportunity.

“One of our school board members, Jerry Groce, had been to a meeting in the Shoals area where there was a discussion about a program called CHOICES,” Hall said.

“After checking into this program, we decided this would be a great thing for our students to participate in so that they would have the necessary skills to make these important life decisions.”

CHOICES, is an interactive, two-day workshop that is presented by local members of the business community who went through training in order to present the information to the students.

During the workshop sessions, the community volunteers take the students through real-world exercises on academic self-discipline, time and money management, and goal setting. There are also mock job interviews and interactive exercises.

Russellville native Alana Parker serves as the CHOICES chairperson for Colbert and Lauderdale County and said she was excited to hear that Russellville would be participating in the program this year.

“I’ve been involved with CHOICES for the past six years and I have seen how the students respond to these workshops,” Parker said.

“We always get such positive feedback from the students who typically say that they haven’t given a whole lot of thought to their future beyond high school, but because of the program, they are going to start.”

Beverly Atkins, with Atkins Marble and Granite Works, also served as a community volunteer who presented information at the workshops.

“When Deanna asked me about being part of this program and she began to explain what all the program taught, I knew it was something I would be glad to be a part of,” Atkins said.

“Things like time management and how to manage your priorities are things these students need to know.”

The program also presents facts and statistics, such as current high school dropout rates and how at least finishing your high school career can set students apart from those who do not.

Chad Sears, director of the Russellville Parks and Recreation department, taught some of the workshops along with retired teacher Nancy Hillman and said seeing those figures was eye opening for many students.

“I’m sure these students don’t think about the kind of negative effects that come along with dropping out of school and with making other poor choices during their high school career,” Sears said.

“This is a great program that opens these kids’ eyes and helps them not make these mistakes, and I was glad to give back to these kids by being a part of it.”

Hillman agreed that the information they presented seemed to be sinking in.

“Being an educator, you can recognize when a child is understanding what they’re being taught and when they are completely disengaged,” she said.

“You could see the difference in these students as they listened during the workshops. They were engaged and soaking up this information, and it will make a difference in their lives.”

RMS eighth grader Jeff Lloyd said he enjoyed the workshop.

“They were showing us how much money you could make at different levels and how your potential income increased the more education you received,” Lloyd said.

“They were showing us an example of a person who made $10 an hour. That sounded like pretty good money, but then they started taking out money for taxes, groceries, bills, gas for your car, rent and utilities and pretty soon there was hardly anything left.

“It was helpful to have those kinds of real-life examples.”

Fellow eighth grader Bailey Rose agreed that the workshops were eye opening.

“I enjoyed hearing the individual speeches the people from the community gave and how they told us about things they had dealt with personally and obstacles they faced and how we should choose the right path,” Rose said.

“Hearing all that from an actual person in the community was helpful.”

For more information about the CHOICES program, visit www.choices.org.

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