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Elementary schools host career days for students

After Julie Colon spoke to third graders at Paper Mill elementary school about helping students prepare for college, her son Wyatt handed out college banners to his classmates. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – Several elementary schools in Westfield hosted career days on June 1, 2, and 3, inviting parents and other professionals to speak to their students about the work that they do.

At the Westfield Education to Business Alliance meeting on May 25, Southampton Road Elementary School Principal Kathleen O’Donnell said the school gave parents the choice of coming in to speak to the students or presenting virtually. She said one parent who is a state trooper would be setting up on the back basketball court and weighing a vehicle. She also planned to bring gear into her daughter’s second grade classroom. Another parent, a baker, planned to have the children decorate their own cupcakes.

Assistant Principal Chris Manfredi said Franklin Avenue Elementary School would be having several guests come in to speak to the students, including Sen. John Velis and an author. Munger Hill Elementary School Principal Salvatore Friere said 30 parents had signed up to participate virtually, from mechanics and flight attendants to his own daughter’s pediatrician.

Paper Mill Elementary School Principal Melanie Chasse said she had invited parents to speak in outdoor classrooms if the weather permitted. Among others, were a banker bringing in $2 bills, a shop teacher, K-9 dog handler, truck driver and police officer. “We’re expecting a fun and busy week,” Chasse said.

During a visit to Paper Mill on June 3, Julie Colon was one parent who spoke to third graders about her work as Dean of Student Services in a charter school. The students were attentive as Colon told them how she keeps track and helps to mentor students in grades 6 to 12 with their homework and grades, and helps them to prepare for college. She also talked about bringing the students on field trips to visit area colleges.

“What I love about my job is to see the students leaving elementary school and then become successful young adults as they enter college,” Colon said.

The students were prepared, asking very insightful questions, such as what is a normal day on the job, what is her favorite part and least favorite part, is the job hard, and what time do you have to wake up.

Another student asked if a dean of students helped Colon when she was a student. She said yes, in her case it was a guidance counselor who helped her.

Following her talk, Wyatt Colon, a member of the third grade class, gave out college banners  to the other students.

Lab assistant Kate Rodak spoke June 3 to her son’s fourth grade class at Paper Mill Elementary School about the tests she runs at Mercy Hospital. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Another parent, Kate Rodak, a lab assistant at Mercy Hospita,l spoke to fourth graders about working in a hospital lab and the different tests they run, from PKU blood tests on newborns, to COVID tests. She also showed the students the different vials, bags and cultures used for the test samples.

The students asked how long it takes to ship the samples to Boston and to get the results, how long Rodak had been doing the job, and how she started. She told the students that she first started as a phlebotomist drawing blood, and then had a chance to work in the main lab with 50 other professionals.

“I really like working with the testing,” she said.

All of the students in both classes were interested and engaged, and excited to learn about some of the many career possibilities they had before them.

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