Career coaches showcase options for students after high school

Area high school students attending the Jefferson County Career Week Assembly last Thursday evening were told that their individual success in life is completely dependent upon making a conscious decision to be successful and formulating a plan to get there.

The event, held at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, was the culmination of a week’s worth of career planning activities presented by the Southeast Arkansas Career Coaches, an Arkansas Works initiative.

Arkansas Works is a state program intended to help students prepare for their careers.

The headline speaker for the event was television personality and California attorney Judge Mablean Ephriam, but the assembly also included superintendents and principals from area school districts as well as President Stephen Hilterbran of Southeast Arkansas College and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence Alexander.

The educators each issued challenges to the students to achieve academic and career success.

Hilterbran appealed to their inner drive.

“What are you willing to commit to in order to get what you want?” Hilterbran asked. “The answer is anything and everything if you want it bad enough.”

Pine Bluff High School Principal Michael Nellums sought to motivate the students with his evangelical style.

“This week is about hope, opportunity and promise,” Nellums said. “You must take responsibility and take control of the way that your life will turn out.”

Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Danny Hazelwood called upon his formative years as a source of motivation.

“I grew up in a poor family and neither of my parents graduated from high school,” Hazelwood said. “But they made sure that me and my three siblings got an education. All four of us graduated college and became successful. You all have the ability to succeed if you set your mind to it.”

Among the other speakers were Dollarway High School Principal Arnold Robertson; and McGehee School District Superintendent Thomas Gathen.

Dedric Jones is a career coach in the Pine Bluff School District and served as chair of Jefferson County Career Week.

“We are Arkansas Works Career Coaches and we are based out of SEARK,” Jones said in a conversation at the end of the week. “We are in place in White Hall, Dollarway, Pine Bluff and McGehee. We are working hard to make sure our students have a career plan after high school.”

Jones said the Watson Chapel School District was unable to keep its career coach after federal funding ended at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Jones said Jefferson County Career Week was developed after the federally funded Say Go College Week was eliminated at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

“We have 16 career clusters for the students to explore,” Jones said. “We encourage them to think outside the box while establishing their career path.

Aside from Jones, the other local Arkansas Works Career Coaches are Candice Seward-Jones in the Dollarway School District; Jessica Barksdale in the White Hall School District; Laura Robertson in the McGehee School District; and Michelle Heard working with Jones in the PBSD.