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Benton students are living their dream (jobs)

Benton Middle School eighth grader Kelsea Sargent looks on as dental hygienists Cindy McAdoo (left) and Donna Camp (right) perform dental procedures at Pediatric Dental Partners in Bossier City.

Benton Connects lets students job shadow

It’s never too early to plan for the future and students at Benton Middle School are doing just that.

Through “Benton Connects,” a pilot program introduced last August, eighth grade students are living their dream job for a day by job shadowing local business professionals in their desired career field.

Jennifer Campbell, Benton Middle School counselor, said all Bossier Parish eighth graders participate in job shadowing, but Benton Connects takes it one step further.

Benton Middle School students are shadowing business professionals that fit within one of the 16 Career Clusters identified by student interests, including finance, arts and animation, architecture and construction, wildlife and fishery, engineering, medical care and military. Students complete a career questionnaire and are then matched with employers that fit their identified career cluster.

Then, it’s time to suit up and jump in feet first into the real world. Students are given time and opportunity to ask questions, participate in job tasks and see first hand what it’s like to work in their career field of choice.

Kelsea Sargent and Angel Martin spent their day at Pediatric Dental Partners in Bossier City. Both girls said they are interested in becoming dental hygienists and couldn’t wait to get started.

They witnessed dental procedures, from simple teeth cleanings to a tooth extraction, and got a crash course in professionalism and customer service. Cindy McAdoo, a registered dental hygienist, said Pediatric Dental Partners welcomes any opportunity to get students in the door to job shadow.

“A lot of students begin working in high school so we like to help prepare them for anything they may face in their particular career field,” McAdoo said.

For Angel, her job shadowing experience only confirmed how much she wants to enter the dental industry.

“I got a really good look at what they do,” she said. “It was fun and I definitely want to be a [dental] hygienist.”

Results like that are what Benton Connects is all about. The goal, Campbell said, is to help guide students in making informed decisions about their future career goals.

The school system has a lot to gain as well. Business professionals are encouraged to provide feedback in order to give school officials a better grasp at how to help further educate and prepare students for the workforce.

“The goal of education is to provide a competent workforce for our community,” Campbell said. “By making early connections, we can gain knowledge of the skills our youth have and those we need to develop.”

Job shadowing is also a great way for students to build relationships with potential employers. Campbell said businesses are ultimately providing invaluable experience to the students.

“Some students don’t have access to network with professionals on their own,” Campbell said. “This program puts them in connection with businesses they would normally not have access to.”

Students completed a Work Place Interview Form with the professional they shadowed and will make a presentation to their social studies class based on the information they gained from the day. In March, Benton Middle School will host a business appreciation night to celebrate the success of the program and to say thank you to the professionals involved.

Benton Connects invites the community and business partners to coordinate with the school system in order to provide a fun and educational job shadowing experience for eighth grade students. Campbell extended a special thank you to the following companies for participating in Benton Connects: Barksdale Federal Credit Union, Bossier Federal Credit Union, Pediatric Dental Partners, Benton Town Hall, BPCC Theater Department, Bossier Arts Council and LSUS Animation Department, 96.5 KVKI and 93.7 radio stations, Benton Animal Hospital and Barksdale Air Force Base.

Campbell said Benton Middle School will continue to implement Benton Connects as business relationships and partnerships develop. Any business or industry professional that is interested in participating should contact Jennifer Campbell at (318) 549-5318.

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