Doug Wagner, the School District of Manatee County's deputy superintendent of business and operations, doesn't spend a lot of time in the classroom anymore, but he made sure to carve out an hour of his schedule May 17.
Wagner spoke to fourth grade students like Stokely Browne in Melinda Swartling’s class at McNeal Elementary about the importance of planning ahead for their future and finding something they love to do.
Browne's interest was easy to spot.
“Mrs. Swartling, how do you spell neurosurgeon?” Browne asked.
Wagner’s appearance was part of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s Project TEACH (Teach Everyone About Career Horizons), which is a program aiming to teach fourth graders about the importance of career awareness.
Wagner was one of 143 volunteers who visited 32 schools in Manatee County and spoke to more than 3,200 students according to Terri Behling, the vice president of Workforce and Community Development for the chamber.
Students like Browne were setting their sights high when dreaming about the future. Browne and one other student indicated they wanted to be neurosurgeons, and other dream jobs included acting, being a singing coach, becoming an architect and or learning to be a veterinarian.
Wagner said, for him, it comes down to making sure students start thinking seriously about what they want to be.
“You can have lots of different jobs in your life,” he said. “Students need to do what they love.”
After Wagner finished talking about some of his experiences, the students made their own business cards and they shared their hopes for the future.
The students take their dreams seriously, Swartling said.
“They’re very motivated to pursue their careers for the future,” she said. “It’s not a whim.”
Fourth grader Brooke Meyers said she wants to be an actress when she grows up.
“It was cool. I didn’t know you could do all those jobs,” she said. “I want to be prepared and have a back-up plan.”
Meyers said her back-up plan would be waitressing, since that’s what she thinks actors do when they’re waiting for their big break.
Trevor Kovatch, who wants to be a musician when he grows up since he already plays piano, said he felt a little relieved about his future after the presentation.
After listening to the speakers, though, he found he could pursue different interests while taking time to make his choice.
“I thought I only had to do one career in my life and that was going to be a hard choice,” he said, noting that he loves playing baseball, too.