Career Day at PS 196 in Williamsburg is hardly your normal “bring your parent to school” affair. After all, how many career days can count City Councilmembers, rock musicians, and representatives from the Brooklyn Nets as their participants? This year’s career day, hosted last Wednesday at the Bushwick Avenue elementary school, was undoubtedly an event to be proud of, creating a sense of community amongst parents, teachers, and students.
“We recruit parents from the school, as well as people that grew up in Williamsburg, because we want to show children that they can do whatever they want no matter where they come from,” said Principal Janine Colon. “As times are changing, careers are changing, and it’s very nice for kids to see different types of professions.”
The elementary school has hosted a career day for the past eight years. The event started out small with mostly the parents of students coming in to speak, but as the students began requesting to see different jobs represented, parents and teachers began networking to bring in a diverse group of professionals. This year, one of the more prominent attendees was Councilmember Diana Reyna, whose council district includes the elementary school.
“As long as I’ve been a councilmember this is one of my favorite days. I get to interact with students and give them an opportunity to ask questions,” said Reyna. “When you start engaging students in civic duties they have more of an appreciation for being part of a community.”
The fourth graders were eager to participate as Reyna asked them to guess the city’s budget. After shouting out guesses one over another, ranging from one thousand dollars to a cool billion, students’ mouths went agape when Reyna told them that it was sixty-four billion dollars. Reyna made sure to remind the students to register to vote when they turn eighteen, and to become active participants in the political process. To demonstrate her seriousness, she started a mock debate between the students over why only boys should get to use the “big boy” swing set in the playground.
But politics was hardly the only profession for the students to absorb. Jeff Scott, the Director of Community & Player Relations for the Brooklyn Nets, tried to explain to one classroom the importance of having an alternative profession in mind when dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. And although not an NBAer himself, Scott still managed to impress by passing around the size twenty sneaker of the Nets’ seven-foot center, Brook Lopez.
“Kids get caught up about what happens on the court and sometimes don’t understand the business side,” said Scott. “My job is to educate kids on career choices and options.”
Perhaps one of the more underrated aspects of the day is the effect it has on the presenters, reminding every parent and teacher that once they too were fledgling youths with endless dreams and enthusiasm.
“Often times, kids don’t have the chance to see the real thing,” said Paulie Z, a professional musician and founder of the Rock Asylum Foundation charity. “To have someone in the class explaining things to you is very inspirational. It makes us think about how we got here and why we got here. These are all moments that made us who we are.”
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