FULTON — Angela Ferlito sees the Career Exploration Center as an opportunity to fill education gaps.
Ferlito, G. Ray Bodley High School’s work-based learning coordinator, runs the center out of the school library. While every student has the typical course work such as math, science and social studies, the Career Exploration Center (CEC) provides workshops on other life skills that could help students succeed after high school.
“Things that everyone should know, but who is teaching it? This is our opportunity for us to prepare kids for life, whether it’s college track, military track or it’s right into the workforce,” said Ferlito, who has been a business teacher for more than two decades. “Every kid should have a plan and a credential to use if they’re trying to get a job.”
Before the CEC opened in the fall, Ferlito said roughly 600 students filled out a survey on what life skills they wanted to learn before leaving high school. Some of the top answers included how to apply to colleges, how to get a driver’s license and how to manage their money.
“Once I got a feel for what kids wanted, I set up the workshops and we’ve had so far probably close to 500 kids coming through. … It’s really free-form,” Ferlito said. “Kids don’t have to come to all of them. They can pick and choose the ones they want to come to.”
The workshop topics include writing a resume and the job interview process, and college preparation concerns such as landing scholarships and acquiring student loans. Life skills, like renting an apartment and making major purchases, are also discussed.
Some whole classes have attended workshops or lectures from visitors, while some students come down during their study halls.
The center has hosted speakers from SUNY Oswego, Bryant & Stratton and local banks, with students also shadowing student teachers or interning in careers ranging from deli operators to illustrators of children’s books.
The center hosted a job opportunity fair in November, and is also planning to open an on-site credit union to train students how to become tellers.
The key for Ferlito is all the students’ work experience is hands-on.
“Everything we do — the internships, the job shadows — they’re going to be out looking, seeing and doing. That’s really important,” Ferlito said. “Again, you can learn from a textbook but real life is always changing, especially in the job market today. Kids need to know what it looks like and what it means to have a job and what skills they need to be successful at that job.”
Ferlito said she hopes the center’s role in students’ lives continues to grow. She is aiming to get more internships set up in the spring.
“I’m meeting with kids, finding out what they’re interested in and finding businesses that will work with us to shadow,” Ferlito said. “It should blossom and get bigger and bigger as we go. I always base everything on what the kids need.”
The center has 17 students who will receive their ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate Friday. The credential documents essential skills needed for workplace success.
Ferlito said even more students will receive the certificate in the spring.
“This was set up as a service for our students in addition to their regular course work,” Ferlito said. “What I’m doing is trying to fill in the life skills gaps and other business skills — things they’re going to need to know to be successful outside of high school.”