La Porte High School’s competition gym underwent a transformation of sorts on the morning of February 12 – from a basketball court to a career idea center.
But not for elusive NBA careers.
Rather, this new-fashioned setup introduced some special education students to jobs that require little or no college, yet still pay a living wage.
The project is a collaboration between Region 4 Education Service Center and BridgeYear, a Houston-based nonprofit that envisions connecting non-university-bound students to viable and accessible career opportunities. Jennifer Lopez, La Porte Independent School District’s transition supervisor, facilitated the program locally.
Unlike traditional career fairs, this one includes a 20-minute immersive experience for students, who try their hand at phlebotomy, electrical wiring, computer networking and other vocations.
And quite often, 20 minutes is more than sufficient to plant a career seed, according to Evelyn Melgar, BridgeYear program coordinator.
“People will sometime ask me what students get out of a 20-minute engagement,” Melgar said, “For many of these students … for the first time, they feel like they are capable of something significant. They leave here encouraged.”
The event has resulted in a career for at least one attendee thus far in its two-year existence.
“We had a student last year who tried the phlebotomy station, a career that he had never heard of,” said Townsley Tayebianpour, a Region 4 education specialist. “He fell in love with it.”
The student later contacted BridgeYear advisors, who set him up with no-cost phlebotomy training during the summer. Tayebianpour said the student now pays the bills working as a phlebotomist.
Phlebotomy jobs pay about $16 per hour, according to BridgeYear research. Other showcased jobs, such as network technician or process technician, pay about $24 and $34 hourly, respectively. The common denominator is that training time is relatively short and is often on-the-job.
“The most popular career choices that I hear from students are being an NBA player or YouTuber,” Lopez said. “With this event, we’re trying to expose our students to careers that are accessible and pay a living wage.”
Added Cynthia Anderson, the district’s executive director of special programs, “It is so very important to expose our students – all of our students – to careers and opportunities, so their last day in La Porte ISD looks like their first day into their adult lives.”