Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 16, 2013

Seventh-graders explore careers at "Real World" event

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Eighteen Howard County seventh-graders stared closely at the X-ray Dr. Emily Backer held up to the light.

“You can probably tell what this is,” Backer said Friday.

It’s a shoulder, several students said in unison.

Then, she held up another scan that she said was a little more complicated. It was an MRI of an abdomen.

An MRI shows “slices” through the body, Backer said.

It’s a radiologist’s job to study those scans and look for abnormalities, the doctor said.

“These are pretty hard to interpret,” Backer told the students, as she pointed to the MRI.

Backer, a family practitioner in Kokomo, was one of about 50 presenters at the Welcome to the Real World career event hosted Friday by Indiana University Kokomo and Partners in Education of Howard County.

More than 1,000 Howard County seventh-graders filed in and out of classrooms at the university on their quest to learn more about careers that interest them.

Throughout the day, 110 students listened to Backer’s presentation on doctors and physicians.

Eastern Junior High School student Cameron Graham sat in a desk near the front of Backer’s class and listened as she talked about the different careers and specialties in the medical field.

Every once in a while, he stopped to ask a question.

How much do you make? What’s the best part about your job?

Backer patiently answered the questions.

Most doctors make at least $100,000. Surgeons make at least $200,000 a year. Some of the specialty fields make much more. Backer said doctors are paid well, but that’s not what she likes most.

She said doctors are doing something different every day. It’s interesting, she said.

The job involves problem solving. It’s a great career choice for someone who likes riddles.

“People come in and tell you their symptoms, and you have to piece it together,” she told the students.

It’s not all fun and games, though. Most doctors and surgeons work long hours and get called in late at night or early in the morning for emergencies. They don’t always get regular sleep, and they’re often on their feet for seven or eight hours at a time, she said.

Despite those downfalls, it’s a career Graham is still considering.

“I want to help people,” he said.

But as much as he wants to be a doctor, he wants do other things, too. He is still considering a job in the armed forces.

He is not alone.

The six sessions on the armed forces drew 220 students. The only career that was more popular Friday was the FBI, which brought in 226 kids.

“Everyone wants to be an FBI agent,” said Joe Dunbar, who helped organize this year’s event.

He said the careers that kids see on TV are always popular. The career that surprised him this year was culinary arts.

Nearly 130 seventh-graders chose to explore that career at the Real World event. Dunbar said he attributes the growth partly to cooking shows on the Food Network and on network television.

But he said many students in Maple Crest’s career school attend that session to decide if they want to learn culinary arts at the Kokomo Area Career Center.

“That program has really ballooned,” he said.

Down the hall from Backer’s classroom, Sheila Rees and some of her cosmetology students at the career center talked to younger students about a career doing hair and makeup.

She said her students work hard in the classroom.

They use math and chemistry when they’re learning how to mix hair color and developer. They hone their communication skills so they can talk to customers when they need to.

“It’s like you get a minor in psychology, too,” Rees said. “Customers tell you their problems. You form a bond with them.”

But cosmetologists work hard for their money. They’re on their feet all day as they do makeup, cut and color hair, do nails and facials and style hair, Rees said.

As a career center student put pink chalk streaks in the seventh-graders’ hair Friday, Andria Townsend talked about what she learned.

“I learned it will take a lot of time to do,” she said.

Rees told the students that her cosmetology classes work for two years to prepare for their state exams. They have to do 250 haircuts and 400 hair styles.

That work doesn’t scare Townsend, though. Her session on cosmetology made her realize that’s what she wants to do with her life.

“I spend all of my time now doing people’s hair,” she said. “I can do really creative makeup designs, too.”