"The turnout we had the first year of our Summer Expo impressed me in both numbers and diversity of students," recalls Pam Wilson. "Some came by themselves, others with friends, and still others with one or both parents."
A job fair designed to help students find summer employment and volunteer opportunities, the Summer Expo at Naperville (Illinois) Central High School was advertised through a variety of sources. Wilson, the School/Family/Community Partnership (SFCP) team chairperson, recognized the great demand on the students' time, and she was pleased by the strong response of the first participants in 2008. It demonstrated the need for a program that connected willing students with positive working, volunteering, and learning opportunities for the summer months.
Summer Expo was the brainchild of a parent on the SFCP team. One of the specific goals of the team was to foster the social and emotional side of the students, and members saw that this program provided an opportunity to not only achieve that goal but to extend the reach of it beyond the school year.
"We had a terrific response for the first year, and I credit the volunteer lead and her subcommittee with getting a wide variety of organizations involved. Those organizations ranged from non-profit local community groups needing volunteers to retail businesses offering paid employment," Wilson told Education World. "We also had faculty and community organizations addressing academic growth opportunities over the summer."
Wilson recalls a student who told her at the start of the event that he had only come because his mother "dragged" him. During the evening, his attitude changed as he talked with representatives from some of the organizations in attendance. At the expo, students encounter experiences that can set them on the path to a career. There are summer camps that seek counselors and other volunteer and compensated job opportunities, and guidance counselors and coaches introduce the students to academic and athletic summer activities.
At the event itself, student volunteers welcome and direct attendees, and light refreshments are served. Wilson distributes a pamphlet that lists the participating organizations with descriptions and contact information. School counselors retain copies of the pamphlet as a resource.
In its first year, planners had less time to prepare, and the expo contained significantly more volunteer than paid employment opportunities, which might not have met the expectations of the students. Wilson notes the importance of early planning.
"Pay particular attention to your audience and goals and, based on them, target a balanced representation of business and community organizations," she advises. "If you have clear goals for the event and have commitments from specific organizations, you can more easily create a marketing campaign to target the right attendance and create the right expectations."
Copyright © 2011 Education World