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Students get look at career opportunities

Photo: James Durbin Niki Marcus, from left, a sophomore at Mountain View High School, and her mother Barbara Hines, talk to Jenni Gaines, admissions director at The Process Institute of Cosmetology during a Career and Technical Education Fair hosted by the Gwinnett County Public Schools at the Maxwell School of Technology Thursday. Marcus came to the Fair to find a school that could help her get started in the fashion industry. "My main goal is to become a fashion designer," Marcus said, "so I'm just working my way up."

Photo: James Durbin Niki Marcus, from left, a sophomore at Mountain View High School, and her mother Barbara Hines, talk to Jenni Gaines, admissions director at The Process Institute of Cosmetology during a Career and Technical Education Fair hosted by the Gwinnett County Public Schools at the Maxwell School of Technology Thursday. Marcus came to the Fair to find a school that could help her get started in the fashion industry. "My main goal is to become a fashion designer," Marcus said, "so I'm just working my way up."

LAWRENCEVILLE -- What do you want to be when you grow up?

Students from all over Gwinnett County took a stab at the age-old question during Thursday's inaugural Career and Technology Fair.

Hundreds of 11th- and 12th-graders showed up at Maxwell High School, where Principal Jeff Hall opened the doors of the charter school to those curious about post-secondary college or career plans.

Hall said he hoped Thursday afternoon's event gave students from around the district "a better understanding and exposure to all the opportunities out there."

Among those at the gathering, a group of students from Mill Creek High School walked the hallways, stopping for a moment in the school's culinary arts classroom and lab area. Culinary Arts instructor Debbie Grant talked shop with students Alex Lyons and Travon Guy, both 17, and Dwayne Patterson, 18.

Grant fielded questions from the trio of juniors and seniors about the profession.

The three young men said they came out to the event to get a glimpse at what the future might hold.

Current culinary students Wendi Meuse and Alicia Jaspers, both 17, and Sahar Tejani, 16, all of Peachtree Ridge, attended the career and technology fair to help the instructor and get a little real-world experience. They served visitors during the event, which drew several hundred.

Valeria Martinez, 17, of Duluth High School, worked side by side with the instructor. Martinez is a sous-chef at her school. She said she plans to eventually pursue a career in the culinary world after she graduates.

Other organizations that came out to the exhibit included the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, the University of Georgia, CISCO, the Process Institute of Cosmetology, Le Cordon Bleu, Gwinnett Technical College and many more.

Representatives from Phil's Barber & Style School of Lilburn also showed up.

Instructor Trainee Will Stamm said the fair gave the business an opportunity to show prospective students what the industry was all about.

"It gives them an opportunity to talk with qualified personnel about their career," Stamm said.

Hall said that's ultimately the goal: "They get to come and hear about the future from people who are living their dreams."

Students at Gwinnett County Public School can enroll in career and technical education courses during their 11th- and 12th grade years in high school. Additional specialized programs are housed at Maxwell High School of Technology and Grayson High School Technical Education Program on the Grayson High campus.