Community partners give Sylvan Hills Middle students a Career Day they can work on

Nearly 50 representatives from a range of professions in the Atlanta area gave Sylvan Hills Middle School students a window into their future for Career Day on Wednesday. Everyone from the Atlanta Braves to Zen Massage to UPS and the Atlanta Police Department spent the day showing students why preparing for high school is just the next logical step on a path that could take them to any number of professional possibilities.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students, and we can’t tell you how much we appreciate what you’re doing,” Sylvan Hills Principal Gwen Atkinson told the professionals. She explained that Sylvan Hills is one of the few schools in the district that is separated by gender (as opposed to single-gender schools like B.E.S.T. Academy), and listed some of the school’s supplemental offerings such as Success for All reading program. Two Hands on Atlanta volunteers were available to assist in the day’s activities.

Portia Branch, assistant brand manager for clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch, joined FBI agent Jerome Terry and his assistant, Krystal Heard, in speaking to Sandra Scott‘s seventh-grade girls class. “This gives gives, for me, a chance to tell my story of how I got to where I am,” said Branch, who originally attended the University of Georgia to be a competitive swimmer but wound up with a degree in marketing and branding. She plans to finish her master’s degree in speech pathology and educational research from Emory University and become a high school teacher. “I want to let them know that not every career path is linear. You have to be flexible in what you take on as a job, and then make sure you know everyone else who’s in or around your position. I started out folding clothes as a sales clerk, but I let the manager know I wanted to move up to the next level.”

Branch preached patience to the students, noting, “It’s all about delayed gratification. My father always told me, you’re not always going to get immediately what you think you deserve. It’s going to take time, maturity and perseverance. You have to stay focused.”

Scott, the Sylvan Hills seventh-grade teacher, thinks students at her age are starting to at least look for these kinds of messages. “This helps them see that there are careers out there that are different compared to what they usually see: teachers, clerks, cashiers. Eighth-graders show a little more interest in careers because they’re going to high school the next year so in four years they’ll be in college. The seventh-graders are still searching for what they really want to be. It’s kind of a transition year.”

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