Poplar Springs Elementary school fourth graders Lexie Dancy and Jada Williams have about eight to 12 years left to make up their minds about their professional careers, but they already know.
They each considered studying pharmacy, law, firefighting and other positions, but a different job ranks first for both of them, teaching gymnastics.
“I do gymnastics every single day and I want to take it beyond the level now,” said Lexie, age 10.
Jada has a plethora of reasons why teaching gymnastics fits best into her life.
“I like meeting new people and helping people,” she said. “I like to be active.”
More than 40 local professionals set up tables inside the Meridian elementary school auditorium Friday to discuss career options with students. Nurses, bankers, attorneys, doctors, cupcake makers, court reporters, journalists, architects, engineers, and DJs all had an opportunity to explain what their work, how many years of education, compensation, and other key factors related to the jobs.
GALLERY: Poplar Springs Elementary College/Career Day
Dave Bohrer / The Meridian Star
Poplar Springs Elementary School held a College/Career Day Friday morning. More than 160 students from the school's fourth and fifth grades had an opportunity to talk with 47 presenters from businesses, colleges, public service and the military.
“Do you want to be an insurance agent when you grow up?” one agent asked a student who had never heard of the concept of insurance.
University of West Alabama English Professor Kendrick Prewitt towered among the students scattered through fair and saw potential in the crowd.
“I’m looking for some good third and fourth graders who are interested in teaching and reading,” he said.
The most popular booth was Margie’s Mixing Bowl, where owner Margie Mire gave each student a cupcake covered with sweet icing and dispensed career advice to her young admirers.
“I tell them practice makes perfect at anything you do,” she said. “You’ve got to keep trying and trying and trying.”
Sitting quietly near Mire was a third grader, Jordan, the baker’s daughter. She enjoyed listening to her mom talk about her business to other students passing through the career fair.
“It’s really cool,” Jordan said. “I get to learn how she does this.”
Jordan visits her mother's shop often, but has other things on her mind besides business plans.
“Sometimes I eat all of the cupcake icing,” she said, smiling. “Sometimes I get more than I’m supposed to.”
Bethany Garrett, Poplar Springs Elementary librarian, said she and school counselor Hayley Shirley organized the fair to expose young students to new careers and professionals in the community who do them.
“For us, it’s never too early to get them thinking about their college and career opportunities,” Garrett said. “We want all of our kids to know the world is bigger than Meridian.”
The program also helped the children practice social skills such as making eye contact when talking to someone, firm handshakes, greeting someone new, and showing interest in what others say.
“We try to teach them this isn’t just for college career day,” Garrett said “This is for life.”
While some elementary school students may have found their favorite career option (for now), others opted to keep their options open. Ty-Rell Williams, 10, said he liked learning about firefighting and flying jet planes for the Air Force.
"I want do something that helps people," he said, standing among the crowd of curious classmates.