Campers get to FOCUS on careers

Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 3:00 p.m.

The choices that you make now can impact your career choices in the future.

That was the message delivered by Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones during Career Day hosted by the Fostering Opportunities and Cultivating Upstanding Students, or FOCUS, Summer Program for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

During this year's Career Day, which was held last Wednesday at Showers of Blessings Harvest Center Inc., students explored professions that are lucrative and require education and training, but not a college degree.

FOCUS partnered with the public and private sector to provide students with an interactive look at careers that included cosmetology, law enforcement, court services, fire and emergency services, television, real estate, entrepreneurship and working with reptiles.

Apostle Willie King, pastor of Showers, said he was pleased with the event.

"It's important to have programs like these for children to see options available to them," Apostle King said.

Natalie King, director of FOCUS, also was pleased with the event.

"The kids were very engaged and had so many questions," King said. "The entire day was geared toward cultivating their minds and helping them focus on the future. The goal is that the students will walk away empowered and informed about the many opportunities in the career world."

The students rotated to various interactive presentations.

Jones and members of GPD discussed careers in law enforcement and answered lots of questions from the students. Jones told the students to think carefully before acting because their actions can have life-altering consequences, such as prison or not being able to pursue their dream career.

Jones was pleased with the interaction.

"The students were curious and very knowledgeable, asking very important questions," Jones said. "It was a great group and I look forward to doing it again."

Boys had an opportunity to get haircuts and the girls received manicures, both provided by Bly's School of Cosmetology.

"We're giving back to the community by giving children free haircuts and getting them ready for the school year," said Wanda Thompson, a student at Bly's.

LaVernard McKinley, a Bly's instructor, said the boys wanted all-over fades, for the most part.

And Zachary White, 12, got exactly what he wanted. "I got a nice haircut and I like it," Zachary said.

A group of elementary school students appeared captivated with snakes, lizards, scorpions and other reptiles, presented by Chris Glass, one of the owners of Hogtown Reptile Shop. Glass also discussed careers working with reptiles.

Jamison Tillman, 9, seemed to know a lot about snakes from watching educational programs, but was surprised to learn snakes are milked for their venom, which is used to make medicine.

"This (reptile presentation) is my favorite so far," Jamison said.

For Lorenzo Hill, 7, the best part was petting a Bearded Dragon, which is actually a reptile.

After attending a presentation by Darry Lloyd, spokesman and deputy chief investigator with the State Attorney's Office, Cameron McCluney, 9, decided she wants to be an investigator.

"I think it will be a cool job," Cameron said. "I can arrest bad people and help good people."

Rikki Tillman, 10, wants to be a police officer.

"It's cool and I can make a difference in someone's life," Rikki said.

The five-week FOCUS summer program provides a reading, writing, science, technology, engineering, art and math curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th-grade. The camp also provides mentoring, tutoring, financial literacy, character building, etiquette, social media awareness, organizational skills, health and nutrition, global issues and sustainability awareness.

Rose Flagler, manager of community relations for Plum Creek, praised FOCUS and presented the program with a $10,000 grant from Plum Creek to be used to help fund the summer program this year and next year.

"FOCUS exposes the students to various careers they can enter upon graduation," Flagler said. "Not everyone wants to go to college."

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