Mead Bulldogs learn and explore careers during Pizza with Professionals

A new program is bringing police officers, doctors, scientists and military officers to Mead Middle School this year.

Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades are exploring future career options during the school’s Pizza with Professionals series that kicked off this fall.

First responders and professionals from the medical and STEM fields have already talked with about 150 students at the school during lunch sessions, which are designed to incite conversations in small-group question-and-answer sessions, school counselor Sarah Clark said.

“It’s more casual, so students are more inclined to ask questions and engage in conversations than if they have a guest speaker,” Clark said. “When they’re doing it in front of a big class or group they might feel self conscious.”

Three more workshops are being offered this spring bringing military officers and professionals from agricultural, veterinarian, cosmetology, massage and aesthetics fields to the classroom.

While the preteens aren’t expected to decide their futures in middle school, Clark said it’s never too early to get them thinking about their interests.

“Middle school is when students are starting to learn about who they are, what they like, what they don’t like and careers are part of that,” Clark said.

Middle schools across the district offer online tests that help students build their Individual Career and Academic Plans (or ICAP), which is required of students across the state. The program is meant to align students’ academic and extracurricular work with future college and career goals beginning in middle school. The program requires students to complete interest surveys, create written goals, experience work environments, make an intentional course selection and display an understanding of the financial impact of life after high school.

This is just Clark’s second year at Mead Middle School, but career exploration was a priority when she took the job. Clark launched the Pizza with Professionals program with six workshops and hopes to expand the discussions next school year since students have been eager to sign up.

“We’ve been full and had a waiting list for each session,” she said.

Hayley Price, a Mead Middle School eighth grader, attended the November STEM Pizza with Professionals session in hopes of learning more about engineering.

Price said she has always enjoyed math and science, but was happy to hear the civil engineer explain that the job also requires good verbal communication.

“I’d like to do something that’s a little more creative and not strictly math or science,” Price said.

Price isn’t set on a single career option yet and said it’s a little scary to be thinking so far ahead already, but fellow eighth grader Kassandra Reyes has known what field she should be considering for a while.

Reyes attended the school’s first workshop that featured professionals from the medical industry.

“Ever since I was young, I always liked to help people,” Reyes said. “I like to make sure people are okay when they’re sick.”

Clark said the lunch series is intended to help all types of students define their paths, whether they already have a direction in mind or not.

Sixth grader Eli Whitcomb would like to work on planes and drones when he’s older and is already planning to take some engineering and other related classes to prepare for his potential career.

“I’m looking forward to February’s Pizza with Professionals, so I can talk to someone who holds my dream job,” said Whitcomb.

Mead Middle School hopes to continue the program next school year and expand on the industries represented, exposing students to a variety of career opportunities and interests.