A different kind of fair made its way to Wharton High earlier this month.

Although there were no rides or fried foods, the school’s gymnasium hosted the first Wharton Technical School & Career Fair on Feb. 11. 

Advertised as the first of its kind, the fair provided more than 250 students a chance to meet with various companies, businesses, technical and vocational schools and even recruiters from various branches of the military.

The message? There is a wide range of opportunities that don’t require a traditional college education.

“A lot of times, when I have kids sitting in front of me, they’re saying they don’t what they’re going to do after they graduate,” said Wharton’s Success Coach Roslyn Brown, who organized the event. “They guess they’ll go get a minimum-wage job.”

However, Brown says that doesn’t have to be the case. That’s why she came up with the idea for the Technical School & Career Fair.

“I try to tell them there are a lot of things they can do that don’t require a four-year (college) degree that will make them a really good income and (allow them to be) happy and successful,” she said. “They’re just not aware of those opportunities, so that’s why I thought it would be great to provide these kids with one forum to learn about multiple opportunities or options.”

Roughly 25 vendors were on hand in Wharton’s gymnasium, from Publix to the military branches, as well as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Border Patrol and Busch Gardens. 

Paul Mitchell the School, which offers cosmetology and hair styling/barbering programs, as well as technical schools such as Keiser University and Erwin Technical School on E. Hillsborough Ave. were on hand, too, all there to show that a motivated junior or a graduating senior’s only option isn’t enrolling (or trying to enroll) in a traditional four-year university.

Leaving An Impression…

“I thought it was really good to see different outlooks on what you can do after high school,” said senior Jahniah Eaton. “It lets you keep your mind open and it also gives you something to fall back on. Say you don’t want to go to college, then you can just fall back on this or have a way to make money, so you’re not just walking around with empty pockets in a couple of years.”

For fellow senior Jarell Miranda, the career fair was enlightening and productive.

“Personally, I was going to go to a trade school, not a four-year college, so I got to speak to Erwin Tech and saw more things that I would really like to do,” Miranda said. “It was awesome that the school did this for us.”

Brown said part of putting the fair together was pinpointing who would benefit most from attending and then preparing them to impress potential employers.

Three different sessions were held to determine the best students to attend the fair.

The first session gauged the interest of students who were mostly unsure of what they wanted to do after graduation, or were not specifically interested in attending a university or college.

Once those students were chosen, they were prepped on how to make an impression on potential employers and post-high-school technical programs.

A second session was dedicated to resumé building and during the third session, Brown had a representative from Men’s Wearhouse come to the school to teach the students how to “dress for success,” right down to how to properly knot a necktie.

“I’m not personally aware of another school that (hosts a career fair like this),” Brown said. “But now, a lot of feedback we’ve gotten from (the businesses, schools and recruiters) was how impressed they were by the size of it and how many opportunities were available, all at one location.”

Roslyn Brown

Brown said she was wasn’t sure why more schools don’t also offer career fairs like the one Wharton hosted but did say the Hillsborough County School District does a good job of promoting other events that businesses, companies, organizations and even recruiters might host for students.

In the end, the students were not only appreciative of the fair being held by the school, but impressed, as well.

“You got to see a lot of different opportunities outside of just going to college,” junior Jayla Bembow said, “and it was cool that the school made this available to us. And, it wasn’t just about what’s available, they were also telling us other things to prepare for, like interviews and resumé building.”

For those who want to learn an applicable skill and begin working sooner, the career fair definitely was an eye opener.

“I thought it was pretty cool to see about different jobs there are without having to go to college,”  junior Heather Johnson said. “But also like the trade and tech schools — it’s cool that you can go there for just a year or two and already start working.”

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