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Jan. 24, 2012

Blinn’s Career Quest gets Fayette County students thinking about their future

More than 400 middle schoolers participate in inaugural event

Dr. Miniam Bixler
Blinn College Nursing Instructor Dr. Miriam Bixler shows students from St. Rose Catholic School one of the mannequins used in nursing classes at Blinn’s Schulenburg campus.

A handful of Blinn’s best and brightest spokespeople - the instructors who lead classes at the College every day - were on hand in Schulenburg recently to showcase for middle school students some of the real-world things you can do with a degree.

Blinn College Social Science Professor Thad Hill urged about 420 middle school students to live for someone other than themselves, and to be the very best at whatever they chose to do in life.

Agriculture and Applied Technology Division Chair Doug Pierce showed them how agriculture “is about more than just cows, sows and plows.”

Biology Professor Greg Phillips provided insight into the anatomy of crawfish, Dr. Miriam Bixler demonstrated the nursing lab mannequins who can moan, cry out and even vomit, and Math Professor Yvette Janecek showed students how some of the best careers available after graduation require an education in mathematics.

And while the professors’ topics varied, their message at Blinn College’s “Career Quest” event last Friday was united – start thinking about your future and how your education can get you there.

“I hear from students all the time, ‘I want to be a business major,’ and then you ask them what they want to do with that degree and they don’t know,” said Fayette County Extension Agent for 4-H and Youth Development Kayla Kaspar, who coordinated the event with Blinn’s Schulenburg Campus Director Becky Garlick. “One of the topics today is agriculture, and we tell them all about the careers in agriculture and what you can do with that education.”

Blinn invited middle school students from Flatonia, Schulenburg, Fayetteville, La Grange and St. Rose Catholic to its campus for presentations on possible career paths and the educational goals students must achieve to make such paths possible.

“Research shows that it’s in middle school where a lot of children decide whether they’re going to college,” Garlick said. “A lot of people believe that decision is made when they are juniors or seniors, but they start thinking about it in middle school, so we’re trying to focus on that age group.”

Teachers such as Schulenburg Middle School’s Wendy Frienel, who also teaches a career exploration class, appreciated Blinn’s attention to pre-high school students, who are often ignored when it comes to high school career days.

“A lot of people believe that seventh and eighth grade is too early to start thinking about their careers, but this is a very good way to do it because then they start thinking about what they need to do, and now they have the information so they can make a good decision,” she said.

Seventh grader Jared Kruse said he wants to become a forensic scientist, and is considering attending Blinn before completing his degree at Sam Houston State University. He too was impressed with the professors’ 20-minute presentations.

“I didn’t get bored today, and I thought I would,” he admitted.

For Fayette County students such as Kruse, Blinn’s Schulenburg campus is an appealing option. The campus has seen a 28 percent enrollment increase since Sept. 2009
“It was amazing to me when I came here in September 2008 that there were still people in this community who had no idea this campus existed,” Garlick said. “Blinn is a well-kept secret in Schulenburg, but we’re doing our best to let the secret out.”

Events such as Career Quest have been instrumental in Blinn’s growth. Blinn’s Schulenburg campus also presents a Kid’s College for fourth through eighth graders that focuses on science, technology and math, and its “If I Had a Hammer” program teaches fifth graders mathematical concepts through construction projects.

Friday marked Blinn’s inaugural Career Quest, but based upon feedback from teachers like Frienel, it won’t be the last.

“The kids definitely enjoy the professors putting things into real-life terms for them to understand,” Frienel said. “They like hearing about salaries, they like hearing about famous people and they like hearing about the different career options open to them. I think today has really got them thinking about their futures.”