Neighborhood Center crafting vocational program for children

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New program aims to get elementary students thinking about career paths

The Ozark Area Community Action Corporation's Barry County Neighborhood Center is looking to get local elementary children thinking about their future careers, and a new program being devised will help reach that goal.

Vocational Opportunities Inspiring Children in Elementary, or VOICE, is in the panning stages in Barry County and aims to target children in Cassville Elementary, and possibly other local districts.

"There will be six categories of careers, and we'll go into the schools, meet with the elementary kids and talk about careers while doing hands-on experiments," said Gail Reed, supervisor at the Neighborhood Center. "Next year, we plan to do it in Lawrence County also, but it probably won't start this year until summer school, or the fall in the new school year."

Jennifer Olson, the Ozark Area Community Action Corporation's Greene and Lawrence County supervisor, said the program is in its third year at Republic and Springfield elementary schools, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We started in Greene County looking at low-income children and this pattern where they were not exposed to a wide variety of vocations," she said. "We wanted to plant the seed with them by presenting that wide variety of careers. The schools have been really responsive, and some are already booking dates for next school year, and the counselors appreciate it because we color-coordinate our career categories with ones already being presented in the schools."

The event is set up much like a job fair, where for a time period of 1-3 hours, depending on what the school chooses, children rotate between the six career categories, completing hands-on projects at each booth. The career categories include: Health services, human services, natural resources and agriculture, arts and communication, business management and technology, and industrial engineering and technology.

"The kids to one-on-one activities with each volunteer from local businesses," Olson said. "Some examples are where we had an architect help kids build things with Legos, or marshmallow toothpick structures. Some lawyers cam in and took fairy tales and made legal cases out of them, and some nurses brought stuffed animals for the kids to give fake shots."

VOICE will target children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the Barry County Neighborhood Center is searching for local businesses who would like to be involved. Olson said the Center will work with each business to devise a fun, hands-on activity for the children to do.

"It would be nice to get a bank of volunteers, so when an event is scheduled we can call on them, and if one is not able to do it that time, another could," she said.

Businesses wishing to volunteer in VOICE events may call Reed to get on board. Reed may be reached at 417-847-2140.

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