PORTLAND — More than 300 students from Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools had the chance last Friday to see that there are opportunities in Maine after graduation.

The first ever district college and careers expo at the University of Southern Maine allowed the students from the citys three public high schools to explore colleges, certificate programs and career opportunities.

“We just want kids to see what their options are and to know how those pathways conect and how to get there,” said Katy Foley, of Jobs for Maine’s Future.

The expo focused on three clusters of career and education opportunities: the hospitality, medical and information technology fields.

The students were greeted at USM’s Abromson Center by Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk, and Chris Hall, the chief executive officer of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, before they broke into groups.

“The experience you are going to have this afternoon is really all about you,” Caulk said. “It’s all about connecting you with the career opportunities we have here in the city of Portland. I want you to be selfish; take full advantage of this opportunity and see how it connects to your own aspirations.”

Both Caulk and Hall told the students that they are the workforce that will drive the Maine economy in the future, and advised them there are opportunities in Maine; they don’t have to leave the state to find a career or quality education.

“I need you people,” Hall said. “You may not realize it, but you are in the driver’s seat. Every single one of you has a place in the economy and I know it doesn’t feel that way, but you do. It doesn’t matter if you have the best grades or if you feel you’re on top of it, there is a place for you.”

Foley noted that all 17 vendors and businesses at the expo were from Maine.

“We want students to understand that if that is what they want to do, if they want to stay in Maine, there are great options both at the secondary education level, certificate programs and employers who need all of the above,” she said.

In her introduction, Foley challenged students to use their time wisely and to take the time to really think about where they want to go in the future.

Two Deering students, Brittney Hanna and Morgan Dacey, said they are already looking at what they want to do after graduation, and staying in Maine is definitely part of the plan.

Dacey, who will be attending the University of Maine at Farmington in the fall, said she thought about that when she was looking at schools.

“I want to stay in Maine, but I also want to travel (at some point),” she said.

Hanna said she has not decided for sure where she wants to go, but is looking at the University of New England’s physical therapy program and hopes to stay in Maine after college.

Foley said that the hope for next year is that a bigger representation of all options is available to students. She said she hopes that they can add more industry clusters, events such as mock interviews and group challenges to next year’s expo.

filed under: