By LA Fellow Martha Sealy

No one told me all that I could do. As educators, we have to spread the word about self-assessment and passions. I wish someone had told me.

I remember the day vividly. During my senior year in high school, I was pondering my college major. My mom had just come home from teaching first grade and walked past me to get the mail. Because I assumed she knew everything, I asked her what college major could I pursue that involved plants. Flowers and vegetables were always my thing.

Without hesitation, my mom answered, “Horticulture.” And, she was correct.

However, I immediately snubbed my nose at “horticulture” claiming, “I hate science.” I was not aware there was a field of study using plants that was exactly what I was looking for: landscape architecture.  No one told me.

My second career choice was to become an attorney. I was the fifth child my parents were sending to college so there was a time limit: Four years. Essentially that meant no graduate school. I had no idea there were specific scholarships for certain careers including non-traditional students, or grants, or even student loans. I had worked every summer and during college for spending money, but did not consider “working my way through school.” No one told me.

Entering college right after high school, I finished in four years, and got my first real job, first grade teacher. No one told me I could be something else or suggested I follow my passion or even find funding to pursue a dream. I taught first grade for three years, but always had my fingers in the dirt. Eventually I enrolled in graduate school, and now I have a master’s degree in landscape architecture (MLA).

My story has always propelled me into helping people find their right career. After earning my MLA I went back to teaching. I taught children that by combining gardening, art, and architecture, there could be a culmination into landscape architecture.

Young people today have access to the internet, and in Louisiana, laws requiring career readiness instruction beginning in the sixth grade. In high school career readiness courses range from basic to advanced with some in-between. At some schools and in some diploma paths at least one of these is required.

As a Fellow with America Achieves, I am charged with creating a new career readiness curriculum for high school students. My cohorts met in New Orleans in September to begin the task.

We visited  the largest employer in New Orleans, Ochsner Health System. I learned about their high school recruiting program where students learn that there are other jobs in a hospital than a doctor or a nurse. A career outreach staff gave presentations offering resume writing tips including thinking about their own passions.

Jobs exist in non-clinical and professional roles in academics and research, allied health specialties like laboratory, sonography, phlebotomists, financial systems, information technology, human resources, customer service, pharmacy, housekeeping, greeters, and even a pianist, a greater array since its opening in 1942 by founder Dr. Alton Ochsner.

Another founder and current CEO, Patrick Comer, used a play on words to brand his company Lucid, defined as “thinking clearly” and “easy to understand.” Only seven years old, this market research, technology firm labels their human resources department as “people.” With a goal of hiring 100 “people” in 2017, those who work in People are going to be really busy!

Describing Lucid’s successful fundraising campaign as “telling the story, getting energy up, the excitement up,” Comer is also describing what those 100 new staffers will be doing globally and in New Orleans.

Companies today are reaching out and telling students the many job opportunities they offer. I am going to spread the word too!

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