PPIE Career Days Let You Share Your Career Insight with Pleasanton Middle-Schoolers

While they can sometimes be light-hearted and are always a big hit, the annual Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Career Days are never held without a lot of preparation and legwork. Designed specifically for the eighth-graders attending Pleasanton Unified School District's three middle schools, the program is the labor of love for PPIE Executive Director Debi Covello. For the past five years Covello has been researching options in answer to the proverbial classroom query: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

PPIE's mission is to help middle-school students both widen their horizons and conduct a reality check as they start to formulate plans for their future. Especially in the fast-paced Internet age, where change is constant, it's important to educate adolescents about potential next-generation careers.

"It's no surprise that some of the traditional career paths available to our generation aren't necessarily offering a future today," Covello observes. But for every field that "ages out," promising new opportunities arise. Biomedicine and alternative energy are just two examples. Nursing is another. "Nursing has really been in the forefront over the past few years. We feel it will continue to offer a lot of opportunity. Plus the compensation is great," she notes, advising, "you just have to get that education."

Covello typically works with the schools' vice principals studying career projections five to 10 years out. "We like to look ahead, identify opportunities, and then recruit volunteer speakers to talk about their real-world experience in that field."

At the same time, the team recognizes the importance of student input. To get a feel for what's on the eighth-grade mind, the schools survey their students to determine specific areas of interest. The results are matched against research findings and marketplace demand. Then Covello proceeds with outreach to speakers.

The presence of those volunteers is what brings the event to life. Representatives from law enforcement at all levels, including the FBI, have been popular guests, as have scientists, especially if they do an experiment. "We've had all sorts of professionals, from a video game animator to someone doing stand-up improvisation," Covello relates, singling out the latter for his ability to captivate a gym full of students. "He had them doing improv in 30 minutes." Another stand-out was the professional wake-boarder, a product of Pleasanton schools, with an "awesome" message. "He reminded the students that professional athletes can easily be sidelined by injury or run into problems with their sponsors, so they need a back-up plan. For him, that was a career in sports management, but it was possible only because he had made smart decisions and prepared by getting an education."

The 2009 Career Days line-up is: Harvest Park Middle School on January 27, Hart Middle School on February 17, and Pleasanton Middle School on March 10. Volunteers are welcome. If you are interested in sharing some insight into your career you can sign up to present at one, two, or all three schools, with a minimum commitment of one morning-long session. For details, contact Debi Covello at (925) 846-5620 or mail@ppie.org .

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