By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — For Sesser veterinarian John Spence, the best part of Friday's Career Fair at Mt. Vernon Township High School was how it gave kids a “real world” perspective on different professions.
Too often, students have an unrealistic view of what certain careers entail, which can lead to disappointment down the road, Spence said.
Veterinarians, for example, have to deal with situations sometimes that aren't always pretty, he said.
“I think it's important to do career fairs because it gives kids a real perspective about jobs,” Spence said. “Especially for my profession, kids have the idea that all we do is pet the dogs and pet the cats. … You don't want to go into it with an unreal perspective.”
Spence was one of 32 area business professionals who had informational booths at Friday's Career Fair at MVTHS.
The event is held each year by the Rend Lake Area Regional Delivery System, in conjunction with the Hamilton-Jefferson Counties Regional Office of Education.
Roughly 1,200 area students, mostly eighth and ninth graders, attended Friday's fair. The students were from schools in Jefferson and Hamilton counties.
“(It's) just to help us find out what we want to do in life,” said Mariah Stone, an eighth grader at Grand Prairie Elementary School.
Students at the fair had the chance to stop at a variety of different career booths to hear brief presentations from real business professionals.
Every 10 minutes or so an alarm would go off and the students would then have about a minute and a half to get to their next booth.
“It's kind of like a career fair meets speed dating,” said Kara Andrews, director of the Rend Lake Area Regional Delivery System. “So they can see several different careers while they're here.”
Andrews added that the goal of the event is to get kids thinking about their future careers now instead of later.
“It's good at the eighth grade level to get them to start thinking about that because soon they'll be in high school and they'll have those extra-curricular options,” Andrews said.
A wide range of careers were represented at the fair, including veterinarian, financial advisor, firefighter, court reporter, dentist, welder, athletic trainer and others.
Many of the professionals speaking to students Friday also made unique demonstrations.
Spence showed students a stillborn horse fetus in a jar to help illustrate some of the situations a veterinarian might run into.
“I think it's good to show kids things,” Spence said. “I mean, a lot of the things that I do may be gross to certain people, you know they can't stand it, but on the flip side you get to do a lot of really interesting things.”
Another booth at Friday's fair was related to court reporters. The presenters had students read parts of real transcripts from depositions while a court reporter typed what they said.
Stacy Wilson, an official court reporter with the State of Illinois, was one of the presenters. She said career fairs can be extremely valuable educational tools.
“I think it gets them thinking at this young age about what it is they're going to do,” Wilson said. “It plants that seed.”
Michael Beckham, an eighth grader at Waltonville Grade School, said he was impressed by the presenters at the fair.
“It was good,” Beckham said. “Some of them explained it pretty well, like they told you how many years you have to be in college to do this job.”