To show appreciation for the many business and community partners who have been part of the Neosho Junior High School's ongoing Career Explorations and Career Days, the junior high hosted a luncheon this week. The Career Explorations and Career Day programs strive to provide students with a better idea of what career could be a fit in the future so that youth can prepare for their future.

"We want to thank all of our partners and businesses this year," Dr. Jennifer Cryer, NJHS principal told the guests. "We appreciate the time you've taken to work with our students."

Veteran math teacher Mark Daughtery now serves as the facilitator for the Career Explorations Program at the junior high school thanked the numerous partners, places that allowed students to visit and often work hands-on at various jobs. The list includes Branco, Four States Dental, Newton County Ambulance station, Freeman Hospital, Silhouette Imaging, La-Z-Boy Midwest, Neosho Graphics, Marco, First Community Bank, KNEO Radio, Nutra Blend, Faithful Friends, and Crowder College for nursing, agriculture and the MARET (Missouri Renewable Energy and Technology) Center at Crowder. Students have applied for loans - although they didn't get approval, they learned what it takes to get there - worked hands on at the Goodman School site, and tried their hand at some medical tools. Field trips have included helping to #bringbackthebloom in downtown Neosho and visiting a cattle auction at the Joplin Stockyards. They've also given back to the community with helping out at Faithful Friends Animal Advocates of Neosho and preparing a Valentine's Day meal for residents at Webwood Assisted Living.

"The real world experience our kids have had this year are things that they'll take with them into their careers," Daughtery said. "It's really amazing what they've got to see."

After a meal shared, students shared what they learned and gained through Career Explorations and Career Days. Their comments shared a common bond - each student stated they'd learned more about what careers they want to pursue - and what careers they don't.

"I wanted to go into construction, like my dad," Blake Evinger, student, said. "But after this, I've decided I want to go into technology."

Banners offering thanks to the numerous business and community participants were placed around the room. Cryer said that they will be moved downstairs, into the main commons area of the school and will remain for the rest of the school year - and next.

Cryer referenced the leadership team that works with school staff to make the career programs a reality.

"We've worked with our leadership teams quarterly," she said. "Over the past two years, we've tried to come up with a consistent focus for our students. We were lucky enough to explore outside our walls."

Both Career Explorations and the Career Day events are designed to help students identify area of career interest early, then tailor their high school education toward that direction.

"We work really hard in our 7th and 8th grade years to connect students with people in the community."

Tammie Blaylock, a Neosho Junior High counselor, said the interaction with community partners is important. "We stress what they need to do tomorrow, both inside and outside of school, to prepare for careers," she said. To further assist in that process, 8th grade students will be involved in mock interviews on May 21. Students have been developing a resume that showcases their experience or professional skills. They will "interview" in 15-minute sessions during the morning on that day, providing additional experience with the career and job process

Career Explorations and Career Day will return for students next year, preparing students for a future career and building relationships with the community.

"We want to say thank you for your time," Cryer said. "And thank you for coming today."