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D49 Students Explore Important Choices at Get a Life Expo

A spark of inspiration can come from a single conversation.


Damien Slama, eighth-grader at Horizon Middle School, listened closely to an expert in the field of cyber-security explain her work routine during the first-ever Get a Life Career Expo Oct. 11, at Sand Creek High School.


“Jobs just seem hard. They don’t seem like they’d be fun,” he said.

Students and parents listen to a panel of experts in the STEM field during the Get A Life Expo, Oct. 11

Dr. Mary Graft, director of cyber education at the National Cybersecurity Center, also explained how she and her colleagues work to protect their customers’ day-to-day online activity, even if it means trying to hack into systems to find their weaknesses.


Damien agreed the hacking part seemed pretty enjoyable.


“I think it’s a lot better, I guess, than I thought it was,” Damien remarked. “Not all jobs are in a [cubicle] with computers and paperwork.”


Through D49’s portfolio of schools and program offerings, D49 students, along with their parents, select the best academic and career plan to reach a student’s goals after graduation. School District 49’s Pathbuilders team developed the Get a Life Expo to offer an engaging experience of discovery for students in middle school and early high school. Through a series of 20-minute breakout sessions, each featuring a panel of speakers, students and parents learned how industry experts made it to where they are today.


“What we want to do in middle school, or high school, is a great vision to have,” said Bob Gemignani, D49 workplace learning manager, referring to students’ early career aspirations. “The stories we’re hearing from our industry champions are hopefully proving to students that we have to be adaptable, we have to be lifelong learners and just continue to progress in the direction of that vision.”


Although the panelists explained the value education has had in their journey through the workforce, the professions represented (IT, skilled trades, culinary/hospitality, nursing/health) also demonstrated how a successful career path does not always require a four-year college degree or higher.


“Kids sometimes feel like they’re confused, or pressured, like ‘I don’t know what I want to do with my future,’” Dr. Graft said. “You don’t have to know yet, but you do have to start getting a foundation of academic knowledge, skills and priorities, so I think it’s a good idea to talk to them about this kind of stuff.”


The expo planners hoped some students would take away a better understanding of what they’d like to do later in life and how D49 can help get them there. They also anticipated some, like Damien, might find a spark to inspire a new vision of what’s possible.

a panel of experts in the STEM field talk to students and parents during the Get a Life Career Expo, Oct. 11  Damien Slama, eighth-grader at HMS,(left) and his mother Christine engage with the panelists at the Get a Life Expo  Mackenzie Loew, FMS middle-schooler (left), and Amber Loew, her mother, discuss options and strategies with D49 Pathbuilders

David Nancarrow