Hazelwood hosts first career fair

May 1, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Greg Farrar Above, at left, Chloe Brousseau, Hazelwood Elementary School first-grader, gets a huge kick out of wearing a child-sized set of bunker gear and holding a fire hose nozzle as Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter Tim Castner adjusts her helmet on Career Day.

By Greg Farrar
Chloe Brousseau, Hazelwood Elementary School first-grader, gets a huge kick out of wearing a child-sized set of bunker gear and holding a fire hose nozzle as Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter Tim Castner adjusts her helmet on Career Day.

The imaginary fire in the Hazelwood Elementary School cafeteria never stood a chance against first-grader Chloe Brousseau.

“Aww, in your face,” the aspiring firefighter shouted as she peeked out from an oversized helmet and brandished an impressive, yet waterless, fire hose.

Once her work was done, it appeared that Eastside Fire & Rescue found a new recruit at the school’s first career fair.

“Wimpy handshakes” were forbidden at Hazelwood on April 3, as students met with real-world professionals and explored a series of career paths.

Before they visited booths manned by librarians, nurses, scientists and pastry chefs, students got a hands-on lesson about the importance of a handshake from Hazelwood parent Diana McMillen.

“I just think it’s good for them to know how to do a proper handshake and make eye contact and use a clear voice,” she said. “Meeting someone and first impressions are important, so to start off on a good foot is always a plus.”

With the all-important skill in hand, students traveled through the cafeteria, where they met professionals with expertise in landscaping, sales, finance, realty, science, media and website design.

About 90 percent of the professionals were Hazelwood parents who volunteered their time, said Laska Whiteaker, the event co-chairwoman.

Prior to the event, students took surveys to determine possible career interests. The results were interesting, Whiteaker said, as fourth graders trended toward more creative career paths, while fifth graders were overwhelmingly technical-minded.

“What was really cool was about 50 percent of the kids surveyed wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “So, we have some Hazelwood teachers manning a booth throughout the day. They all gave their planning period to come and teach the kids about education.”

Many of the stations had hands-on tools of the craft for kids to try. Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter Tim Castner’s booth was among the busiest.

Castner was sweating as he helped a line of students get in and out of an oversized firefighter’s uniform, complete with an out-of-service helmet, hose and oxygen tank.

“Oh my God, that was fun,” Chloe bellowed as Castner removed the heavy uniform.

Eastside Fire & Rescue enjoys doing fairs like these, Castner said, because they offer early insight into the profession for those who are truly interested, and remind kids to employ safe practices.

It’s not easy to become a firefighter, Castner told the students. It requires academic skills, physical skills and an ability to adapt. It took him nearly 10 years of testing.

“It’s rewarding, it’s exciting, it’s fun and sometimes it’s heartbreaking, so it covers the full gamut,” Castner said of his job. “But these guys, I think if they can see at this level, all of the different aspects of the job, it’s really a great job.”

Chloe would certainly agree, declaring she now wants to be a firefighter after visiting Castner’s station.

That’s exactly the sort of enthusiasm Whiteaker said she was hoping for in the school’s first career fair, a tradition that Hazelwood now expects to continue annually.

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