Dawson County High School senior Addeline Wright recently spearheaded a Career Pathways Day event at the middle school and presented it in front of state school leaders as her project for the State Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.
Wright was selected at the beginning of the school year by State School Superintendent Richard Woods to serve on his 2021-22 Student Advisory Council. This selection came following an extensive application process, which included choosing a platform to run on. According to Wright, she chose mental health as her initial platform and also ended up discussing improvements that would help advance Georgia Virtual School classes.
“One of the things that I talked about was doing mental health days, and then one of the things when I actually got there that I ended up speaking the most about was our Georgia Virtual School; I think it’s a great opportunity for students to take classes that they want but what a lot of people didn’t realize was the curriculum was really out-dated,” Wright said.
Wright said that her sister is deaf, so she and her family use sign language a lot in their home. She was taking an ASL class through Georgia Virtual School to further her knowledge of the language, and she realized as she took it that a lot of the signs the program was teaching were either outdated or incorrect.
“That’s one of the things that I was really big on talking about while I was there, and Superintendent Woods himself said he didn’t know that was something that needed to be updated or that the language moves that quickly,” Wright said. “So that was really good for me to realize I did actually make a difference.”
Out of over 1000 students across the state that applied to be on the council, Wright was one of just 60 students to be selected. She and her fellow council members attended several meetings with state school leadership in Atlanta, and at one of the first meetings the students were asked to come up with an idea for a service project to benefit their community.
“I was talking to my parents about it and said ‘what if we did a career fair’, and I came and talked to Mrs. Smith about it and she suggested doing one at the middle school,” Wright said.
CTAE Director Amy Smith said that when Wright approached her about the idea of doing a career fair, she and her fellow administrators were available to help but Wright was really the one that took the idea and ran with it.
“She came to us early and said she had to do a community service project; she said maybe a career fair and we suggested doing it at the middle school,” Smith said. “She ran it and she did a great job — basically we were just there. She did so much work and we’re so proud of her.”
Wright said that, as she worked on her project, she decided to make it a way for rising eighth graders to learn about the career pathway opportunities that the DCHS College and Career Center offers.
“The idea was that junior high kids when they got up to the high school would know what pathways they had,” Wright said. “I feel like we have a lot of great opportunities here but a lot of people just don’t know; I didn’t know about pathways here until I was in tenth grade, so if I had started in eighth grade I could have completed two or even three pathways if I really was determined.”
The pathways offered at the College and Career Center range from engineering to health science to culinary classes, and give students an opportunity to learn more about and delve deeper into some of the careers that are available to them upon graduation. Wright recruited high school students who are currently taking these pathway classes to run the tables at the event and tell the middle schoolers about the opportunities available to them beginning in junior high school.
“We had 11 different tables come, and we were even able to get the University of North Georgia to come down which was super exciting so they were able to talk about stuff like dual enrollment and getting kids excited for college,” Wright said. “We had other aspects as well for students who weren’t as excited for college but more getting into the workforce; we were able to talk about that and the certifications that they could get through their CCA programs.”
Wright said that all the seventh graders in the county cycled through the Career Pathways Day event, with over 300 students in attendance. Each group had about an hour to go to all the stations, and Wright announced when it was time to move to the next table and kept everything running smoothly.
Smith said that she and other school administrators were impressed by all the work that Wright put into the event and how well it ended up going.
“She pretty much did a couple of big things in my eyes; she presented her plan to our teachers so she had to get up in front of adults, and she also then basically was the contact person for the student volunteers, the teachers, everybody,” Smith said. “She created sticker charts for the middle school students to do when they went to each station, so basically a lesson plan for them to use — she just did a great job; we couldn’t have asked for a better person to lead that.”
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive by all of the students and teachers Wright talked to after the event, she said.
“All of the people I talked to afterwards, whether it was student volunteers, the kids that actually went through it, or teachers, they all agreed that it should be an annual thing, it was very helpful, they were very excited about it so it was good getting that feedback as well,” Wright said.
As the final part of her project, Wright then had to present it in front of her fellow Student Advisory Council members, as well as state school leadership. She said that students and administrators alike were excited to hear about how the event went and how she pulled it off.
“When I went back and presented it to the other students, and a lot of them weren’t seniors, they were sophomores or juniors, a lot of them said ‘oh wow this is something really cool that we can take back to our schools’,” Wright said. “And a lot of the adults were excited too — getting to see adults at the state level get excited about what we’re doing in Dawson County was really cool.”
Moving forward, Smith said she hopes to be able to make Career Pathways Day an annual event, and to keep it student-led so students like Wright can step into that leadership role. She added that she hopes to get Wright’s input on who might be able to step up to lead it next year.
“She’s such a great leader; she is one of these kids who goes above and beyond and is just super organized, super detail-oriented,” Smith said. “This is the second time we’ve had a student on the advisory board which is a big deal; it’s a really important thing to do and we’re excited that she was able to do that.”
Wright said that she already has several students in mind to try to pass the project on to next year, and that she’s learned a lot and gained a lot of positive experience through this year of being on the council.
“I have some people in mind that I’m gonna say ‘hey is this something you’d be interested in taking on’,” Wright said. “It’s great for applications, it really helps you learn how do I manage a large group of people at once, helps with your leadership skills, and honestly your public speaking too.”
After graduating this spring, Wright plans to attend Valdosta State University and pursue a degree in Communication Disorders, with hopes of becoming a speech therapist.
“My sister is deaf and I do sign language, so one of the things that I’ve really been looking forward to is being able to provide language accessibility to deaf children specifically,” Wright said. “I have an internship at a pediatric clinic right now with speech; I absolutely love it and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”