Today’s world is changing at an accelerated rate and it has never been more important to prepare students for life after high school graduation. Current research professes that providing interactive career exploration activities in high school may be too late, and that early engagement is a key to helping students transition into high school. According to an Education Week article, “Career Prep Moves into Middle Schools,” exposing middle school students to careers help them understand the relevance of what they are learning and increases the likelihood that they will be prepared for college. After all, as quoted by America’s Promise Alliance, how do we expect young people to dream if they don’t know what they can dream about? Those dreams can include a cross-section of careers from marine science and healthcare to manufacturing and the arts, but only if students are aware of their existence. Hence, Career Interactive Series as an extension of EdExploreSRQ was born.

EdExploreSRQ is managed by Sarasota County Schools and supported by a strong partnership among several local organizations, including the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, the Arts & Cultural Alliance and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. EdExploreSRQ provides experiential field trips that complement course curriculum to enhance and deepen the learning experience for students. With the recent expansion of the Career Interactive Series, middle school students can now gain exposure, experience and knowledge about potential careers from local area businesses.

The Education Foundation was excited to invest in this expansion and we quickly deployed two of our associates, Effa Beauette and Judy Meksraitis, to meet with local business leaders. While we anticipated these career explorations would be positively received by the business community, we were blown away at the level of enthusiasm it garnered. Working alongside businesses to create experiential lessons for our students that aligned with course curriculum exemplified the value of these Interactive Series. With creative titles such as “So, You Want to Explore Careers That Use Robots to Create Products,” these newly formed partnerships affirmed the shared commitment between employers and educators to improve career pathways for our students and serve as a testament to the strength of our community.

The Career Interactive Series, which now includes over 15 local businesses including Sarasota Memorial Healthcare, PGT, Sun Hydraulics, Osprey Biotechnics, Sunset Automotive Group and more, is just completing its first adventurous year of implementation. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County will continue to invest in the expansion of the Career Interactive Series of EdExploreSRQ and invites other local businesses to participate. The awareness of jobs in our local community has proven to not only expose students to jobs for which they may not have once considered or even known about, but it also exponentially benefits our community that is actively seeking to develop a homegrown workforce.

Leveraging our community’s business assets to create a college and career culture in Sarasota County Schools is a worthwhile investment indeed and we thank those businesses who share and support our vision to help every child reach his/her full potential. It’s a partnership that equates in success for us all.