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Visiting companies, imagining careers: Student Leadership Conference

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Nearly 400 high-school students from 24 local school districts are set to see for themselves what the working world is like, and what careers are possible for their talents.
 
The Consortium for Public Education’s annual Student Leadership Conference, April 26 and 27, will send students everywhere from Allegheny General Hospital and Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center to Clear Channel Communications, Dollar Bank, Electric Owl Studios, United Way of Allegheny County and Urban Design Associates.
 
"Every year, we try to have a very widespread series of site visits so they can see there are multiple pathways" to their careers, says Steve Seliy, associate executive director of the Consortium. Students learn what education and other preparation people need for various careers, how they ended up in their jobs, and how they continue to succeed.
 
"Some of these kids don't think about themselves going to college," says Seliy. But, he adds, "in the 12 years that we've been doing this, I cannot think of one kid we've had who participated who [later] dropped out of school." In fact, at least one former Conference student is now a teacher supervising attendees.
 
Carnegie Museum of Natural History is hosting the Conference’s central events, including a dinner and dance, as well as speakers and workshops.
 
Performance poet Vanessa German, from Homewood, will speak again this year. Last year she so inspired the students with her life story that “she had 400 kids stand up and spontaneously give her a standing ovation," Seliy reports. Former pro basketball player Toby Knight, also a Pittsburgher, will speak about his journey as well; today he runs a business that builds sports complexes and sports fields for school districts, and serves on the Consortium board.
 
The workshops, which are created and designed by the students, teach communications, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
 
"In the big conversation that goes on about education, we often don't listen to the very kids we're there to serve," Seliy says. Having teachers and advisors attending the conference “goes a long way toward making them think about getting their kids involved in a conversation about making their schools better.
 
"By the time [students] leave, they are one high school,” Seliy says. “They realize there are more similarities than differences. A dairy farmer from Greene County is talking to an inner city kid from Carrick. They can realize that their ambitions and their aspirations are shared by other kids."
 
Do Good:
The Student Leadership Conference will be held in conjunction with Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board’s Imagine! Career Week, April 26-May 4, which puts a different spin on connecting teens and future jobs here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Steve Seliy, The Consortium for Public Education
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