Career Week opens a world of possibilities to students at Matoaka Elementary

As a military optometrist, Crystal Brigantti didn’t think she would have to explain what an ear is made of. But that’s just one of the things Matoaka Elementary School students wanted to know when they got to meet the professionals at career week.

Brigantti was told by her first grader she needed to present at career day.

“I have some sunglasses to talk about sun health and just different tests we do to show them if they haven’t been to the eye doctor that it doesn’t have to be scary,” Brigantti said.

However, she said students were more excited about than afraid of the eye tests. Students raised their arms as far as they could, hoping the extra strain would make her choose on them to examine their depth perception, and never has a group of eight-year-olds looked more excited to yell out numbers than when participating in a color blindness test.

Matoaka’s career week took place over four days from June 4-7. Destiny Harris, a school counselor, said the school reached out to parents and the community through an online sign-up and an e-flyer. According to Harris, about 36 people volunteered to speak to students, who each listened to eight professionals for 15-minute presentations on their careers.

“And next year they might be hearing about eight different careers, so they’re getting a lot of exposure,” Harris said.

Harris said career week is important because it introduced elementary students to a broader range of post-secondary options than they might normally see.

“Even though our students are still in elementary school we want them to start thinking about the world of work so they can start getting exposed to the variety of careers that there are,” Harris said.

“I think (career week) is great and they get exposed to things they normally wouldn’t know about,” Briganti said. “Maybe you know about what your mom and dad do, and maybe when you talk at school you’ll have a fireman and policeman and things like that, but you don’t talk about optometrist and construction workers and all the different jobs that are out there.”

While presenters told students a lot about their jobs, the children still had plenty of questions.

“My favorite question was do I drive a tank,” Brigantti said laughing. “They had a lot of questions and I think they were excited.”

David Davies, an analyst for Touring Plans, a company that helps people find in-depth trip planning information on Disney theme parks, was also asked some interesting questions.

“I was asked what the tallest ride at Busch Gardens is which had nothing to do with what I was talking about other than that I was talking about theme parks,” said Davies. While Davies mainly crunches numbers on wait times at theme parks, students seemed to zoom in on the fact his job involved places like Disneyland.

“But kids think about things in different ways than I anticipate and that’s not a bad thing,” Davies said. Despite some seemingly random questions, students also asked plenty of thoughtful ones.

“My favorite question was whether my job was fun,” Davies said. “So I said my job is fun a lot of times, I get to do some work in theme parks which is a fun environment. However, like any job, it's not fun all the time. I have responsibilities and when things break I need to fix it … and I try to emphasize not everything is fun 100 percent of the time.”

After the last question was answered and time ran out, students lined up to go back to class. A small chorus of “thank you” followed them out into the hallway. While career week ended, these young people had only just begun their journey.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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