Hundreds of high school students from across the parish packed into the Hahnville High School Gym Tuesday night for College and Career night.
The annual program seeks to link up soon to be graduates with career paths following high school.
The theme for the program was "Make Every Day Count."
Colleges from across the state and region had booths and tables set up and some such as the University of Louisiana–Lafayette and Nicholls State University had very long waits for students hoping to speak with university representatives about what their institutions have to offer. Representatives came from as far away as the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Spring Hill College located just outside of Mobile, Ala.
However, colleges and universities only represented about half of the participating organizations.
Included in the mix were technical schools, construction programs, trade schools and trade union apprentice programs.
In addition to schools and trade programs, Army, Marine Corps and Navy recruiters were all on hand to offer students information about joining the countryís armed forces.
Craig Ford, a junior at HHS who is the schoolís starting kicker in the football program, spoke at length to aNavy recruiter. He said he is planning on joining the military at some point, but is interested in playing college football and getting his undergraduate degree first.
"I want to go to school first," Ford said. "Iím either choosing out of ULL, Tulane or LSU. Those are my only three options right now because those are the only three schools that are interested in seeing me kicking."
Ford said he does not know yet what undergraduate program he will pursue and will likely enter university as an undecided freshman. Given that the average undergraduate changes their major at least three times that may not be a bad idea.
Ford has just taken his ACT for the first time and is awaiting the results. He said although his grades are good he may not be able to make it into a top tier school like Tulane unless offered an athletic scholarship.
Just a few tables down DHS junior Severa Joseph, of St. Rose, and his mother Ealice Haley looked over materials for Delgado Community College in New Orleans.
Although he was looking at community college materials, Joseph said he has made up his mind on what kind of education he wants to pursue.
"Culinary and photography," he said.
Joseph is looking for a school that can offer majors in both the culinary arts and in photography.
"My uncle is a photography and when I was younger I liked taking pictures a lot," Joseph said. "My mom, she cooks a lot so she would help me learn how to cook different things and I love to eat."
Haley said the two were initially leaning towards culinary schools, but are now aiming for a broader based education at Nicholls State University in nearby Thibodaux where they offer both culinary arts and photography degrees.
"He always talked about cooking no mater what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a chef, no matter what I tried to get him interested in music, he was able to do music but he didnít want to do it," Haley said.
Haley said Joseph often cooks at home and she offers him help, but she is holding out hope that he chooses to explore other options once he attends Nicholls.
"He might take up band," Haley said.
A few tables down Montz native and DHS senior Brennan Schexnaydre is showing off a robot that he helped build with the DHS Robotics Team. The robot is a large box with wiring throughout and a conveyer belt type mechanism that pulls basketballs off the ground before ejecting them through the top.
Schexnaydre said he is eschewing the four year college degree path for a technical degree. He is already taking dual enrollment courses through a vocational school and has begun his training towards becoming an instrumentation technician, which he hopes will help him secure employment at one of the local industrial plants.
"My dadís an instrument tech and going through school I didnít think a four year university would be for me," Schexnaydre said. "So I decided I could do what my dad does because a problem is there and you are there to solve it. Your job is to solve it."
Schexnaydre shows off different parts of the robot he helped the team built and what kind of issues they had to take into consideration and troubleshooting they had to do on the project.
"That is what it is, the design process and what does and doesnít work and then after that it is like the things that go wrong with the electrical and pneumatics you have to troubleshoot," Schexnaydre said.
Schexnaydre already seems to have a jump on his future career through his hands-on fabrication of electrical and pneumatic components within the robot. He hopes to finish his technical degree within the next few years and get to work.
Like Schexnaydre, senior Ashley Mouuseau also want to get a jump on getting into a career sooner rather than later. She has no doubts that this time next year she will be working towards a two-year nursing degree with the hope of eventually transferring into a in nursing program at a four-year university.
Mouuseau, with her sister Missy Comardelle at her side, was looking at materials for the Baton Rouge Community College nursing program.
She said the athletic training program offered through the local school system has helped prepare her for the medical field.
"I am looking into nursing and I just donít know what field, but I want to go into nursing definitely," Mouuseau said. "I was an athletic trainer with sports medicine so I kind of know the simple detail of nursing and all."
Further down the row of tables Ama native Jasmine Simmons and her mother Vanessa stop and talk to a representative from Paul Mitchell Cosmetology school.
Venessa, who has some college but did not graduate, wants her daughter to get a four-year degree before going into cosmetology school.
Jasmine, however, seems like she would like to go to cosmetology school first.
"They are a very fundamental school," Jasmine said. "They seem like they are more of getting a career path in order and itís more about not just your licensing, but actually trying to find you a job and give you that boost into the cosmetology path."
Jasmine said she is thinking about an undergraduate degree in business, but it is more at her motherís request.
"She loves cosmetology so if she does the business administration along with that sheíll be ok because she needs to have a back-up," Vanessa said.
At the end of the line is a program for students who want to go straight into work.
The Ironworkers union offers a three-year apprenticeship program where students go to work during the day and take classes at night.
"Young men and women go to class two nights a week and they learn from reading blue prints to welding to using the blow torch and the actual process of building a building or stadium," Aldo Duron, the unionís statewide training program director, said. "Once they start the program now they make $11.76 and hour and if they were to graduate today it is $19.60 on the check plus and additional $8 of fringe benefits."
Duron said there will be a lot of ongoing projects nearby for union apprentices over the next few years.
"Our enrollment is open and in the city of New Orleans we are going to have a big boom with the V.A. Hospital being built, the LSU Hospital being built," Duron said. "There are going to be a lot of workers so we are going to have to focus and get a minimum of 25 to 100 new recruits."
In all, over 50 colleges, trade programs and potential employers turned out for the College and Career Night and hundreds of students and parents flowed through the gym going from table to table exploring options and opportunities and getting prepared for the next big step.