Cleveland High Helps Community Find Career Paths

Barry Bridges (left), NC Department of Transportation Supervisor of the Talent Management Team, talks with Cleveland High students Angela Pena (center) and Angel Hernandez about opportunities with the NCDOT at Make a Plan Day.

Cleveland High School offered an opportunity for Johnston County Public Schools students, recent graduates, and community members to make a career plan for themselves at the school’s first Make a Plan Day.

Make a Plan Day operated like a career fair and served as a networking event for guests to meet with representatives from local businesses, organizations, and community colleges.

“Students can walk in undecided, meet with a local community college, the military, or a business, and walk out with a plan,” said Kim Lewter, the Cleveland High counselor who coordinated the event.

Lewter said Make a Plan Day was marketed to any senior in JCPS who had not yet committed to going to a four-year university or who didn’t have a specific plan after their upcoming graduation.

“I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t get anything out of Make a Plan Day, but as soon as I came in everyone wanted to help me,” said Nicholas Maxwell, Clayton High senior. “I walked out of here with a lot more information than I went in with.”

The event, held April 17, was also open to any person in Johnston County who was looking for options in furthering their career.

“Fresh out of high school you have ideas of what you want to be, then you get out there and sometimes you don’t know what you want to be,” said Leshae Tucker, a 2017 graduate of South Johnston High who attended the event. “Things like this definitely help you and put you in the mindset of figuring out what you want to do and the benefits that will come along with it in the long run.”

Lewter said she hoped Make a Plan Day helped students become more aware of all of the options available to them, so they could better make a decision for themselves.

“We often find that some of our students don’t know the difference between a job and career. In today’s economy there’s a push for skilled labor, and there are a lot of high wage jobs with benefits,” said Lewter. “We are really passionate about connecting our students to opportunities.”

Lewter said that she felt that the culture was shifting around attending a four-year university, and more students are considering entering the workforce sooner after their high school graduation.

“The pendulum is swinging to having low student loan debt or even no student loan debt. You can look at any article and see that skilled labor is in super high demand,” said Lewter. “We know that a four-year degree is not for everyone. We want to help our students make a connection in the field that’s right for them.”

Cleveland High student Jaylen Moss (left) talks with Kendra Arnold (right), Coordinator of Recruiting and Communications for Johnston Community College, at Make a Plan Day.

Guests were able to to network with representatives from the Accentuate Staffing, Aquatech Pool Management Group, Carolina Comfort Air, Caterpillar, Inc., JCC Advanced Technology, Johnston Community College, Johnston County Public Schools, Myatt Landscaping, Nascar Technical Institute, NCWorks, NC Department of Transportation, State Employees Credit Union, the US Army,  the US Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, and Wake Tech Community College.

“Our local economy is growing and changing, so when you can host an event like this and talk with potential employees it’s very beneficial,” said Karen Rowe, NCWorks Career Center Employment Consultant. “You could see it on the students faces that they were excited about being here.”

Cleveland High also offered on-the-spot application help from the school’s counselors to anyone who attended Make a Plan Day.

“If someone visited with a community college and wanted to apply, our counselors were available to help them do that,” said Lewter. “It’s really a one-stop shop for finding opportunities, applying, and possibly walking out with a job or a great option of furthering your education.”