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LAFAYETTE — Sophomore high school students from across Acadiana explored careers and learned about the expenses of post-high school life Tuesday at the 15th annual Career Connections Expo.
“Cool, I did it!” exclaimed Katelyn Lazard, looking through a pair of safety goggles as she operated a jewelry grinding machine with the help of a jeweler from Lafayette’s Stuller Inc.
Lazard, 18, is a student at the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center.
She said she wanted to learn about different careers she could choose from after she graduates and was attracted to the jeweler’s booth by “all the shiny diamonds.”
Stuller Inc. was one of 77 local and national businesses operating booths for the career fair at the Cajundome Convention Center.
Professionals ranging from cosmetologists and chefs to media operators and law enforcement officers made their cases to students interested in their respective fields.
Ingrid Ochoa, 16, of Acadiana High School, discussed a career in law enforcement with Louisiana state troopers Stephen Hammons and John Childers.
“They’re involved with the community,” answered Ochoa, when asked why she was interested in law enforcement. “They have a lot of teamwork and leadership skills. One person in a group of people can really make a difference.”
Ochoa said she hoped to one day work for the FBI.
“I had one student a few years ago say, ‘This is the best thing that ever happened to me,’ ” Delcambre High School guidance counselor Linda Graham recalled. “One of the biggest things about this is — for so many of these students being from a rural area like Delcambre — this will be the biggest opportunity they ever have to see the number of postsecondary opportunities they have. Some of them have never been to Lafayette.”
In addition to exploring career paths, students also were introduced to the realities of life on their own at the “reality store,” where parent and community volunteers spoke to the students about the expenses and practicalities of family life, housing, transportation, leisure and credit.
“It’s a snapshot look at the reality of paying for the lifestyle that they dream they’re going to live,” said Joan Wilson, with the Iberia Parish School District, who organized the “reality store” sessions. “They will come to realize what their parents do for them and how much it costs to live.”