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Smith Middle School Sixth Grade Students Enjoy Career Day

What do a surgeon, bakery owner, environmental engineer and acting coach all have in common? These professionals, among many others from the Chapel Hill and Carrboro, came to Smith Middle School (SMS) on February 14 for the school’s Sixth Grade Career Day.

Sixth grade counselor, Susan Pizzolato, organized Smith’s third annual Career Day. Pizzolato explained the full-day event aims to expose students to a wide range of careers that they otherwise may not encounter. Additionally, she noted that the various presentations gave students the opportunity to begin thinking about their future careers and the possibilities and preparations going forward.

Chief Porterfield at SMS The SMS Career Day goes above and beyond by offering students the chance to explore a large variety of careers and fields. Guest speakers ranged from the Assistant Fire Chief of the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Keith Porterfield, to the Assistant District Attorney of Orange County, Jeffrey Nieman. “I really enjoyed the firefighter because he showed us all his equipment and made his job sound fun,” said one student.

Other student favorites included Ronan Peterson, a local potter, and Dr. Victoria Bender, an exotic animal veterinarian. The presenters were encouraged to bring visuals and interactive displays to engage with the middle school students. Environmental engineer, Andrew Norris, brought blueprint plans for pairs of students to observe, giving them a behind-the-scenes look into the engineering field. Another student said, “I liked when the engineer and newspaper reporter gave their presentations. I have since thought about how I can help people with engineering and travel with a career in reporting.”

Dr. Bender brought animals she works with at Avian and Exotic Animal Care. A student said, “I thought the day was fun, and my two favorites were the firefighter and exotic animal vet. I really liked the animals and learned about what it takes to become a vet.”

PetPals careers Students also enjoyed Wendy Stewart’s presentation about her animal therapy organization, PetPalsNC,  Stewart brought two emotional support dogs for her presentation, a highlight for the students.

Career Day at SMS not only gives students the opportunity to learn about potential future careers, but also helps these students build deeper connections within the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community. Pizzolato emphasized the important role community partners play in the success of career day. Chief Porterfield has attended every career day thus far at SMS and plans to attend every year moving forward.

The presenters commended the students for their engagement and eager participation. Out of the half a dozen local career days he has partaken in, Nieman said, “This is the most engaged group of kids I’ve ever seen.” Dr. Scott Pruitt, a surgeon and cancer researcher, also commended the students’ interest and thoughtful questions.

“I thought Career Day was a really cool experience because I learned about careers I had not heard of before,” said one satisfied participant. Clearly, these generous community professionals planted seeds of interest and ambition, so thank you to all the presenters!