Castaic Middle School students had a unique opportunity to interact with professionals from several different career paths as part of the school’s first ongoing speaker series throughout the month of May.
The district chose to invite professionals from the Santa Clarita Valley and Los Angeles County to give students the opportunity to speak with people in various fields and to promote college and career readiness.
“At this age, it’s really an introduction to career pathways and this is a perfect age group to bring in speakers,” Principal Bob Brauneisen said. “We had pilots here and all three of them shared that they became interested in their profession when they were 12 and 13 years old. It was really eye opening since that is an age group that we’re presenting to.”
This is the first year Castaic Middle School hosted a series of speakers to interest students in different job fields.
School counselor Christine Racina decided to hold the ongoing presentations during the school’s advisory period so students could attend as many sessions as they liked throughout the school year.
“As a middle school counselor one of my responsibilities is to expose students to opportunities that are available to them,” Racina said. “I also wanted them to start understanding the relationship between school performance and future choices. To find what interests them and see what careers are out there.”
Turnout for the different career speakers was great with students staying after presentations to have one-on-one discussions with presenters and to ask more questions.
“You could a lot of light bulbs turn on,” Racina said. “Many of the presenters said their interest in their field started when they were in junior high and that really got their attention. Students were excited about future possibilities.”
Featured career speakers have included members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers, food scientists, pilots and even animal trainers.
On Tuesday, Castaic Middle School students got to meet a celebrity during the speaker series when Joe and Shawna Suffredini, animal trainers for Avian Entertainment, brought Pablo the monkey to their career presentation.
Pablo rose to fame when he was featured in all of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, including the most recent film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” which was filmed in Australia.
“Johnny Deppp was difficult to work with because I think he was jealous of the monkey,” Joe Suffredini joked with the crowd of students.
Joe Suffredini, whose son goes to Castaic Middle School, said he enjoys presenting to students and sharing information about his chosen career field.
“It’s interesting and it’s nice to explain what we do,” he said. “I think animal trainers have been getting a bad rap lately so it’s nice to show people what we do and that it’s a positive thing.”
For students interested in becoming an animal trainer, Joe Suffredini recommended that they volunteer at any facility that houses animals like a farm or a shelter.
“It’s not all fun and games,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this and a lot of cleaning up.”
Racina said crowd favorites included a senior chemist who was in charge of making the formula for gummy bear vitamins by Nature Made and an engineer from Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who worked on the Mars Rover.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite,” she said. “It was a good mix of career speakers.”
In the future, Castaic Middle School hopes to hold two to three speakers per month throughout the school year.
“The concept is to do two or three a month and do it sustained throughout the entire year so every child has a chance to see what they’re interested in and they don’t have to pick and choose and miss out on ones,” Brauneisen said.
Previous speakers included:
- Christy Kadharmestan, a food scientist with Pharmavite
- Diana Darus, an aerospace engineer with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
- Scott Wardle, vice president regional director of operations for American Airports
- Ryan Chapin and Tom Federico, firefighters with the Los Angeles County Fire Department
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_