Middle School Students Explore Potential Careers

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By Amy Orr | LB Indy

Thurston students prepare to launch a rocket they built at Virgin Orbit on Wednesday. Photo by Amy Orr.

Eighth-grader Lauren Trautenberg stepped off the school bus and stood outside the headquarters of Virgin Orbit in Long Beach.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve never been to a place like this before.”

Lauren’s mother, Dora Trautenberg, a field trip chaperone, was equally optimistic.

“Trips like this are a great opportunity for kids to investigate their interests and learn about possible future careers,” Dora said.

Thurston Middle School’s seventh- and eighth-graders spent Tuesday and Wednesday touring different workplace sites. These visits, which are part of Thurston’s Passion Project program, are designed to give youngsters insight into the paths they may want to follow as adults.

This is the second year that Thurston has offered this opportunity. Principal Jenny Salberg said that the program started in response to LCAP results.

“The LCAP showed that our students wanted more career and college preparation. In October of 2017, we administered the ‘My Next Move’ survey to help them identify the types of jobs that could suit them,” Salberg said. “Then, we began bringing in a wide variety of career speakers to talk to the kids each week. Site visits are another way to expose our students to opportunities that may appeal to them.”

The field trips are offered to all students without cost because of the generosity of groups like the PTA and School Power, Salberg explained. Students visit a variety of business locations that target various personality traits and interests. The six sites selected this year represent the six different Holland code categories: artistic, conventional, enterprising, investigative, realistic, social.

Thurston Student Support Specialist Asley Blum explained the process.

“At the beginning of the year, students take the survey and find out their Holland codes. Our career talks highlight these codes and so do the site visits,” Blum said. “It’s fun to watch the kids brighten up as they see various opportunities from different points of view.”

“First choice visits go to eighth graders, so seventh graders might find themselves exploring a career path they had never considered,” Salberg said. “Some students might become aware of an interest they never knew they had. Others could learn a lesson in resilience. Both options are valuable.”

On Tuesday, buses took youngsters to Sony Studios (artistic category), Angel Stadium (realistic category), and the Vans/Oakley Headquarters (enterprising category). On Wednesday, students visited Virgin Orbit (investigative category), Finance Park (conventional category), and the Village of Hope/the Giving Farm (social category).

“These trips are a neat opportunity for kids to explore grown-up life,” chaperone Frank Mead said.

“It’s amazing that our school does stuff like this to help us find our careers,” seventh-grader Jude Young commented.

Jude’s question about calculating rocket trajectories was answered with enthusiasm by a Virgin Orbit tour guide. In fact, the VO engineers hesitated to show one of their video presentations because they were so impressed by the number of thoughtful Thurston inquiries. Students asked about the positive and negative aspects of 3-D printing, as well as the need for counterweights to address the imbalance of a rocket sitting on one side of a plane.

Virgin Orbit’s Mission Design Engineer Alex Poveda deftly handled the youngsters’ technical questions, but he also talked about his company’s wide range of jobs.

“You don’t have to be an engineer to work here,” Poveda said. “We have lawyers, accountants, branding experts…people from all different backgrounds. So, if you like designing T-shirts and you’re interested in space, this could be the perfect place for you.”

“The Passion Project is a chance for our middle schoolers to receive incredible enrichment through hands-on experiences,” Salberg said. “The exposure that students receive on these trips can make a lifelong impact.”


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