Students learn new career paths

Published 10:01 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sophomores and juniors from King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools learned to rethink gender stereotypes on the job and consider new alternatives for their future careers during an annual event on Thursday.

Joy Fosser is a business and government technician for Verizon. She loves working with the latest technology while climbing ladders and lifting heavy equipment.

“I’m over 40, and I have four kids. I don’t have to worry about going to the gym to stay in shape,” Fosser said with a laugh.

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The ninth annual Non-Traditional Extravaganza was held at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront by Suffolk Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education Advisory Council.

Students had the opportunity to meet with representatives from 21 organizations and agencies in Suffolk. These professionals have non-traditional occupations in which one gender comprises less than 25 percent of the workforce, according to Andre Skinner, coordinator of career and technical education.

“We’re trying to show them non-traditional roles and alternative career opportunities that the students may not have realized,” Skinner said.

Students grouped up and sat down with these professional for about 15 minutes at a time.

Aretha Taylor, a master electrician for Suffolk Public Schools Maintenance, gave career advice over a table covered in wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and other tools of her trade. She explained that she entered an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in the mid-1980s and has been busy ever since.

Nansemond River High School sophomores Amari Davis and Aariya Davis listened to Taylor closely.

“You have to have a lot of math to get into her program,” Amari said.

“And have a lot of patience,” Aariya added.

There were several women at the tables that countered stereotypes in their respective job areas, such as Melanie Lassiter, county executive director for the Suffolk Farm Service Agency office. She explained all of the benefits of working for an organization like hers.

She grew up on a family farm in Sunbury, N.C., and has kept farming an integral part of her life.

“I try to impress upon them to choose a career that they’re passionate about,” Lassiter said.

King’s Fork High School junior Trinity Scott said that sort of family heritage is part of the reason she wants to become a physician’s assistant.

“I’ve always thought about helping people, and it’s been a dream to become some sort of doctor. Plus, my dad is in the medicine field, and I’ve got to keep it in the family,” Scott said.

Fosser enjoys working a unionized job where she’s paid equal to her male coworkers, who’ve grown to respect her capabilities.

“Once you show that you know what you’re doing, then you’ll have their respect,” she said.

Emser Tile Quality Assurance Specialist Bridget Bostick earned that same respect while using forklifts to move product at a facility that ships more than 1,000 pallets of material daily.

“Me and two other girls work on the dock, and all of the guys grew to respect us,” Bostick said. “Women have to prove themselves a bit more, and you gain a new respect when they see what you can do.”