Career Exploration

During a visit to the UM campus, middle school students explored college life, career paths.

Coral Gables (June 04, 2012) — When it came time for a group of middle school students to visit the University of Miami’s College of Engineering for a presentation on the many tasks performed by engineers, seventh grader Jermaine Anderson made sure he had a front-row seat for the slide show.

The 13-year-old listened intently as director of admission David Poole talked about the many wonders made possible by biomedical engineers—from better prosthetic arms and legs for soldiers who have lost limbs to a pill-sized camera that allows physicians to peer inside the human body.

Anderson was one of about 60 students from Charles R. Drew Middle School who spent a day at the University of Miami on May 30, learning about higher education and the many career paths open to them. Their field trip was organized by UM and the Miami Children’s Initiative, an area nonprofit aimed at helping youngsters from Miami’s underserved Liberty City community to succeed.

Their 30-minute stop at the McArthur Engineering Annex was one of the highlights of their visit.

Vice President for Human Resources Nerissa Morris gives Drew Middle School students an overview the division she leads.

“Engineering has been with you every day of your life,” Poole told the students. “But it’s often taken for granted.”

Poole piqued the students’ interest further by telling them about some of the engineering endeavors under way at UM, including a federally backed center that helps businesses improve their efficiency and a hydrogen fuel cell engine being developed by professor Michael R. Swain.

The Drew Middle School students became excited, especially Anderson. He knew as early as the third grade that he wanted to be an engineer, becoming so enthralled with the profession that he conducted research on engineering careers.

“I’ve always liked tinkering with things and putting things together,” Anderson said. “This [field trip] really helped answer a lot of my questions.”

Contrea Faison, 13, also found the trip helpful, saying she learned more about college subjects and different majors.

Sixth grader Damari Reid, who wants to be a sportscaster, said he “liked the beauty” of the UM campus.

At UM’s Toppel Career Center, Vice President for Human Resources Nerissa Morris gave the students an overview of the division she oversees. “A lot of people say we focus on hiring, but there’s more to it than that,” said Morris, going on to explain that HR also interviews candidates, determines salaries, conducts background checks and training classes, and administers benefits for thousands of employees.

She also described her own career path and the different parts of the world in which she has lived and worked. “When I was your age, I never thought I’d live in Brazil or go to a place as well known as that,” said Morris. “I studied hard and tried to go higher and higher, and I hope the experiences you have will help you go higher.”

Morris, who is a member of the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) board of directors, said it is important for youngsters like the Drew Middle School students to have role models. She noted that MCI, founded in 2008, is modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, a community-based organization serving more than 17,000 children living in a 100-block area of Harlem.

“We focus on children and their families with programs that range from education to heath,” said Luisana Cavallo, MCI’s events and communications manager, who accompanied the students on their field trip. Cavallo noted MCI initiatives such as a cradle-to-career program for elementary to middle school students and a WalkSafe program in which it partners with UM.

Their day ended at the Herbert Wellness Center, where the students ate lunch with Sebastian.

They left campus with a better grasp of college life and a gift from Edward Cruz, assistant director of graduate student and alumni programs at Toppel, that will help them succeed: a UM pendant with a jump drive. “Use it to store your resumes,” Cruz told them.

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Drew Middle School students listen to a presentation at UM's Toppel Career Center.

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