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SECO event helps students learn about possible careers
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SECO event helps students learn about possible careers

Interactive displays allow hands-on activities

Central Louisiana tenth grade students got a glimpse of potential career paths at the Students Exploring Career Opportunities Expo held November 15 and 16 at the Alexandria Riverfront Center. It was the fourth SECO event offered by The Orchard Foundation, and is funded by The Rapides Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Capital One Bank, International Paper and the Walmart store in Pineville.

The purpose of the SECO Expo is to allow tenth graders to learn about different career opportunities available in Central Louisiana and the skills and knowledge required for those careers so they will be better informed to choose a path into the workforce. Tenth grade students must choose to pursue the TOPS University diploma or the Jump Start TOPS Tech diploma at the end of their sophomore year based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s plan to implement these pathways to help prepare students for future success.

Previous SECO events have been attended by eighth grade students, but the audience changed to tenth graders for the November event. “Our observations and the feedback we received from school districts and business partners about past events led to the decision that it would be very appropriate to focus our efforts on tenth grade because the major decisions students are required to make occurs at that grade level,” explained Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation. “We believe the change to host tenth graders has been a good one. We’re hearing that students came to SECO a little more aware of some careers they might be interested in, so the communication between the students and business partners was a lot more interactive because they had a better idea as to some things they wanted to explore.” 

The recent effort by the Louisiana Department of Education to have tenth grade students choose a diploma pathway makes the SECO Expo even more attractive to schools. “We are a small school, so with limited resources available to us this is a tremendous opportunity for our students,” said Leah Williams, School Counselor at Hornbeck High School. “It’s critical that students get more information to inform their career decision. We’ve seen it change the direction a student may be thinking about, opening their mind to a better opportunity or something that’s a better fit for them.”

Learning about pharmacy skills was one of the interactive displays for students.
SECO’s success hinges on the participation of business partners who set up interactive, hands-on displays to allow students to get a quick peak at what a future career could hold. More than 37 businesses and postsecondary institutions participated in the November SECO event – many of them staffing multiple displays – covering a wide spectrum of possible career paths. Click here to view a photo gallery of the event. Through participation, business and community leaders play an active role in helping students make informed career decisions, while making a long-term investment for a better Cenla workforce in the future.

“The benefit is to get kids to see beyond what’s on the surface,” said Brandon Jeffery, Area Line Leader in the Heavy Duty Liquids Making Department at Procter & Gamble. “In manufacturing, there’s a lot of science and technology behind creating the product so we’re giving students a little taste of what we do behind the scenes. We try to get them engaged, so we’re letting them touch the detergent pods, we’re letting them shake up stuff, and we’re letting them get involved with the experiments we’re showing. We’re telling them the why behind what we’re showing them today.” 

Other displays give students important information they’ll need to understand how their choice of a career path will affect their everyday life. For example, a display table staffed by bankers sits in the center of each zone with a budget activity for students to complete which helps them find out what kind of car, home and entertainment activities they’ll be able to afford on a certain income. 

Students completed a budget activity to determine the income they'll need to buy a car or home.
 

SECO is held over a two-day period with schools bringing their students for an assigned two-hour time slot. About 2,500 students from 41 schools from the nine public school districts in Central Louisiana attended the November SECO event. Students rotate through four zones full of hands-on activities. For some students it’s the first time they’ve seen a career field first-hand but others come to SECO with an idea about their future career path. “I kind of had a hunch I wanted to go in the medical field,” said Halie Smith, a sophomore at Hornbeck High School. “But it was a real eye-opener to see all the displays because it really makes me think about what I want to do in the future and this helped me know for sure.”

During the event, students vote for their favorite display in each of the four industry zones. Those votes are tallied after SECO and the winning displays are recognized with the SECO Student Choice award. 2017 SECO winners were: Zone 1: Grant High School Emergency Responders/MedExpress, first place; Rapides Regional Medical Center, second place; Alexandria Police Department, third place; Zone 2: Gilchrist Construction Company, first place; CLTCC Automotive and HVAC, second place; CMAP Express, third place; Zone 3: Procter & Gamble, first place; USDA Forestry Service, second place; UTLX, third place; Zone 4: Unitech Training Academy, first place; LSUA Math and Science Department, second place; Rapides Business and Career Solutions Center, third place.

The next SECO event is scheduled for November 14 and 15, 2018. If you would like to learn more about participating in SECO, contact The Orchard Foundation at TOFinfo@theorchardfoundation.org or 318-767-6561.

View the SECO November 2017 photo gallery

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Tammy Moreau, Communications Manager
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