‘Take the message to our children’

Resource fair exposes students to new career choices
Mar. 20, 2014 @ 07:35 PM

Agriculture involves much more than farming.

That was the message from the 2014 Vance County Community Resource Fair on Thursday.

“When we talk about agriculture, we think about farming, about the man on the tractor or — for the older ones here — the man behind the mule,” said keynote speaker Bob Etheridge.

As executive director of the North Carolina Farm Service Agency, he has a broad perspective on agriculture in the state.

The impact of agriculture goes beyond the farm, he said.

“In North Carolina, 3 percent of the population is directly engaged in agriculture, but 25 percent is tied into agriculture,” he said.

That proportion was evident from the more than 60 agencies and organizations participating in the resource fair. Their services were on display throughout the day as students from both Vance County high schools and both middle schools circulated through the Southern Vance High School gymnasium. The vendors’ displays highlighted opportunities in numerous areas, including nutrition, youth activities, emergency services, health professions, education and more.

The event was sponsored by the Vance County Cooperative Extension Center and Vance County Schools’ Career and Technical Education Department.

“We took it back to basics, a good old fashioned show-and-tell,” Morris White, Cooperative Extension director, said.

In addition to the vendors’ displays, workshops were offered on career preparation, making healthy meals and gardening.

The day began with welcomes by White, Southern Vance Principal Stephanie Ayscue, and former professional football player and Vance County native Jason Brown.

Students had their own perspectives on the value of the resource fair. One of the younger participants, Jamon Glover, an eighth-grader at Eaton-Johnson Middle School, said he was undecided about a career.

But as he toured the vendors’ displays, he said, “I’m thinking.”

Baby chicks and rabbits on display attracted some of the students.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Ashlyn Matthews, a Northern Vance junior, said. “The rabbits are my favorite”

Julie Sokol, a teacher in the Northern Vance culinary arts program, introduced three of her senior students, Destinee Cotten, Tine Williams and Jamal Kearney. All three said they hoped to be chefs after graduation. They demonstrated their art by handing out samples of a soup cooked right there at the resource fair.

Te’Shawn Peace, a Southern Vance sophomore, said the thing he liked best about the exhibits was the food.

Elizabeth Clayborne, a senior at Southern Vance training to be a nursing assistant, was busy checking the blood pressure of students.

“When I graduate, I want to have a job as a CNA,” she said. “I plan to go into dentistry or pharmaceutical science.”

Starling Faulkner, carpentry instructor at Northern Vance, displayed images of different phases of construction. He said a carpenter might earn $27 an hour or, for commercial carpentry, as much as $40 an hour. Another advantage of the building trades is construction can’t be shipped overseas or done electronically.

“A computer will never be able to build a home,” he said.

The resource fair brought opportunities to the students.

“It’s great to get these youngsters out here to see opportunities they knew nothing about,” Etheridge said. “You don’t know what you’ve done today. One student may become a fireman. Another one may become a farmer.”

Willa Clark, director of career and technical education for Vance County Schools, said the resource fair exposed students to the world of work.

“If you don’t expose them, they can’t dream,” she said.

Vance County Schools Superintendent Ron Gregory said the resource fair was an opportunity to look in new directions.

“What they’re studying in the classroom becomes relevant,” he said.

Etheridge challenged the listeners with the example of George Washington Carver. Working with no money and few resources, he developed 100 uses of the lowly sweet potato and 300 uses of the peanut.

“Don’t tell me you can’t do it because you don’t have the resources,” he said. “Take the message to our children. It’s about your children and your neighbors’ children. It’s about the future of America.”

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.