At fair, middle schoolers sample careers



by Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle staff

NORTH ADAMS -- About 400 eighth-grade students visited the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Wednesday morning to participate in the first eighth-grade career fair held on campus for Northern Berkshire County students.

Some of the kids, typical of their age, were more focused on socializing and keeping awake during the two, 20-minute field-specific sessions they attended. But for others, this was an opportunity to begin gearing their minds toward the future.

"I've always wanted to do something like this, draw plans or layout buildings," said Noah Tatro, who, along with his classmate Michael Mazzu, poured over some blueprints by Williamstown-based Westall Architects. Both young men are members of the eighth grade at Drury High School in North Adams.

"I think it's pretty cool," was Mazzu's assessment of the eighth-grade career fair concept.

"It kind of sets up the future," he said.

Paul "Hutch" Hutchinson, the event's keynote speaker, highlighted the successful careers of some of his fellow Northern Berkshire natives who grew up as "average kids who went to public schools."

A 1994 graduate of Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire, Hutchinson is the coordinator of experience-based training for Boston University Experiential Education at Metropolitan College. He also teaches organizational behavior in BU's School of Management.

Hutchinson's high school classmates include a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, filmmaker, video game designer, and an international development and relief worker.

Mary Nash, project coordinator for the Berkshire Compact for Education, said Wednesday's event was developed by the Compact's Aspirations Committee. She said that the inaugural program was modeled after a similar one offered by Berkshire Community College (BCC) in Pittsfield for eighth graders in Central Berkshire County.

The Northern Berkshire career fair included more than 30 volunteer local working professionals presenting on a range of nearly 20 career fields, from architecture and automotive to sports and sports medicine and from manufacturing to engineering.

"Any opportunity to give people their age tools to guide them is a good thing," said David Westall, principal and registered architect.

During their presentations on health and medical fields, Beth Kleederman, academic counselor for health careers at BCC, and Jim Wilusz, public health director for Tri-Town Health in Lee, encouraged students to begin researching careers of interest and the subsequent types of training and education that correspond with them.

"You can begin now, so as school goes along, it becomes more meaningful and helps you make better decisions about classes," Kleederman told a group of students during a session.

Eighth-grader Kyesha Duncan said she started the new semester by taking a career class at her school, Drury High.

Other school's participating in Wednesday's program included Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School, Clarksburg School, Hoosac Valley High School, Mount Greylock Regional High School and Gabriel Abbott Memorial School.