While parents and students had an opportunity to learn about post-high school options — representatives from colleges, technical schools, military branches and other programs had a chance to make their pitch at the College and Career Fair recently at Wesley Chapel High School.
Those attending the March 11 event could pose questions to representatives from more than 40 organizations, and could take home brochures and other handouts.
Wesley Chapel High had the program in its gym, but the fair was open to students from other high schools, too.
“They (students) really like that it’s all in one place,” said Kelly Faysash, college and career specialist at Wesley Chapel High. “It’s a good opportunity to come one night with a parent and be able to [hear from] a lot of different colleges and universities.”
Keiser University, a private, nonprofit institution, was among those participating.
Pauline Hardy, admissions counselor from the New Port Richey Campus, was there to represent the Florida-based university, which offers services internationally, including programs in business, health care, criminal justice and psychology.
Hardy noted that Keiser offers programs that are convenient for students who have children, or full-time jobs.
“Some of the unique points are that you can take classes one at a time, and each class lasts four weeks,” the counselor explained.
Many of the university’s most coveted programs are medical – especially nursing.
Health care is an ever-expanding field, with numerous opportunities, Hardy said.
Across the gym, Michelle Turner was representing another school offering medical programs – Florida Career College.
One common question asked about the school is how it will help transition students into the workforce, Turner said.
To that end, the college’s career service department stages mock sessions to help students prepare.
“They start working with them (students) one month in, to start grooming them with interview skills, their resume and how to present [themselves],” she said.
Some schools, however, including the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, focus on the world of arts.
The school is located in both New York and Los Angeles, offering courses in acting, as well as musical and dance theater.
The academy’s faculty attend various high schools across the nation to hold workshops. Students get an idea of what the school is about and have the chance to perform auditions.
Lauren Paha is a faculty member of the academy and will be hosting an audition at Wesley Chapel High in April.
She noted that financial assistance is a common area of concern for students and parents.
“Not only do we give away talent-based scholarships, we also do merit-based scholarships,” Paha stated. The school is also receptive to financial aid coming from outside the academy.
All of the instructors at the academy are still active in the industry – whether on Broadway, directing or singing, Paha remarked.
The bar is also set high for instructors at Full Sail University, requiring at least four years of industry experience.
“What we focus on is entertainment, media, arts and technology,” said Jolie Parris, outreach representative for the school.
The university logo was recognizable as several of its alumni have gone on to do artwork for big-budget projects.
Such projects include the Fortnite video game and films like The Incredibles and the Marvel comic series.
They, too, offer scholarship programs and have workshops at high schools, where student can create music beats and learn about animation.
Rebecca Maher attended the fair with her two daughters – students at Cypress Creek Middle High School.
Tuition was at the top of her mind, when visiting the booths.
She wanted to know: “First and foremost, are we going to be able to afford the school of their choice?”
The Wesley Chapel resident has been helping her daughters find scholarships online, but was also able to pick up information at the various booths.
While one daughter has set her mind on engineering, Maher still encourages both not to limit their options.
“There’s so many majors at all these schools, which is one of the things I try to impart to my kids,” she said.
Other options may be found outside of colleges, such as the Paul Mitchell company, which offers courses.
Those with an interest in hair styling can enroll in its cosmetology or barbering programs.
The programs offer career fairs so students can speak one-on-one with industry experts.
Besides offering financial assistance, Paul Mitchell helps in making a smooth transition into the workforce after completion.
“Job placement is one of the things we focus on,” said Melissa Salazar, marketing associate for the company. “To see someone go through the program and placed in the industry is super important.”
Youseff Khalil, a student from Cypress Creek Middle High School, was busy roaming the booths with his parents.
While he admitted an interest in engineering, he said he was open to other fields – even those outside of academia.
The military is one such alternative to schooling, which was represented by the National Guard and the U.S. Army.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Pelfort, of the National Guard, was ready to explain the benefits of serving this military branch.
“It looks good on a resume,” he said. “You’ll always get priority being in the military.”
Although some may decide to pursue a career in the military, others may use it as a means of getting a higher education, the sergeant said.
In the National Guard, a student can serve one weekend a month and two weeks out of the summer – granting more class and study time.
And, with a three- or six-year commitment, students are eligible for full tuition coverage.
“We’ll pay 100 percent up to a master’s degree,” Pelfort explained.
Also, an additional $380 a month is paid out to use for books and other necessities.
The sergeant echoed a common message conveyed at many booths: “Take advantage of it and do it while you’re young.”
Published March 20, 2019