Nan Austin

April 18, 2014

On Campus: Glick Middle schoolers in Modesto jump for other professions at career fair

Sitting at an information table in the Glick Middle School gym, I realized two things: First, I need to grow a teacher's voice to be heard over the chatter of 600 kids, and second, I had approached this career day thing waaaaay too seriously.

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Sitting at an information table in the Glick Middle School gym, I realized two things: First, I need to grow a teacher's voice to be heard over the chatter of 600 kids, and second, I had approached this career day thing waaaaay too seriously.

To my left, a fitness trainer with a jump measurement pole generated big crowds and long lines, mostly boys.

To my right, Wells Fargo Bank tempted kids with an adorable stuffed horse and free candy — and information on finance careers, of course.

What did I bring? Newspapers and a stack of sample press releases for a writing activity, every one of which I took home.

The stacks of newspaper sections had takers. The first to go were the Sunday comics, followed by the Sports sections. If anyone's wondering what youth are reading over their morning cereal, that would be a good guess.

There were roughly a dozen kids seriously interested in writing professionally, fewer interested in raking the muck and combing the minutia that makes up much of a journalist’s day.

Math kids, usually tagging along with writer types, took a greater interest when I explained most stories involve numbers in some way, usually with percentages or ratios to give them context. But for every math whiz I intrigued, I may well have lost the writer — too prosaic for the prose-prone, I suppose.

I was encouraged by the number who seemed unfazed by learning reporters need a college degree. Any subject will suffice. Median annual wage, by the way, is $44,360, one of those waaay too serious things I had available.

Journalism degrees often require taking lots of “intro to” courses to try to give broad, background knowledge. It helps to recognize at least a little of the lingo and the mindset of specialists in widely diverse fields. For example, writing about groundwater sources means dipping into hydrology. Writing about a school bond takes a crash course on things like accreted value and sinking funds.

The next time I’m at a booth, I’ll bring freebies. Or tell fortunes about future prom dates. Or announce a tax on text messages, raising money for high school sports, and let them interview me.

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