More than 300 young people from 45 New York state counties gathered on Cornell’s Ithaca campus June 25-27 for the annual Career Explorations Conference, where they got a glimpse of university academics, campus life and career opportunities.
More than 20 programs spanning Cornell’s breadth of disciplines were offered, giving young students a chance to explore diverse career fields and their educational requirements, as well as an opportunity to learn from graduate students and faculty members, who served as program facilitators.
“Through Career Explorations, we want to connect middle and high school youth to Cornell University, spark their interest in careers and career pathways, help them development academic, leadership and life skills, and provide the opportunity to experience college life,” said Alexa Maille, state 4-H STEM specialist and Career Explorations event coordinator.
“This is the first college experience for many of them,” Maille said, “and we want to ensure they get a feel for different subjects and career fields that they may never have considered.”
Engaged-learning workshops were organized into two age-specific tracks: Focus for Teens, which provided students entering grades 10-12 a chance to concentrate on a specific topic over the three days; and University U, for students entering grades 8-9, which featured six workshops that covered a variety of fields.
“This program is designed specifically for you,” Jamila Walida-Simon, state 4-H Civic Engagement Specialist and University U staff liaison, said in addressing University U participants. “You’re going to get a lot of different subjects over the course of the next two days, and because you are staying in our dorms, you will get a true collegiate experience.”
New to this year’s Focus for Teens program is “Blue Jeans: Creation to Reuse,” which was organized by the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design. The program followed the supply chain of denim – arguably the world’s most worn pant fabric – from dyeing, weaving, fiber identification and tensile and tear strength evaluation to sustainability issues and new uses for old jeans.
For Willow Hogan from Warren County, this was her fourth Career Explorations conference, and third as a Focus for Teens participant. From growing algae to learning about rockets, boats and bridges, Hogan said that these engineering experiences have helped her learn what college is all about and fine-tune her academic and career interests.
“I’ve always had a love for marine biology,” Hogan said. “By doing this program, I got to explore different fields, departments and subject areas that I was interested in and wanted to do but, honestly, to also find out what I did not want to do – which I think is very important.
“I’ve known I wanted to go into marine biology since I was about 9, but now I’m kind of looking into more of the public speaking, advocacy side of it, and only recently got into that through programs and experiences like this,” she said. “I really never would have been able to without programs like this. I’ve been in 4-H for almost 13 years, and it’s changed my life.”
Stephen D’Angelo is assistant director for communications for the College of Human Ecology.