While Dalton Public Schools has certainly held career fairs and college fairs alike over the years, February 1 was a first for the school system as it hosted more than 60 various businesses and college programs in an event called Future Fest for all 8-12th grade students.
Representatives from all of Dalton's major industries and employment sectors, such as healthcare, small business, service industries and manufacturing, as well as related departments from the two local colleges, spent the day informing students about available jobs and the paths they need to take to get there.
Director of School Support Jennifer Phinney explained the thought process that went into planning for the district's first event of this scale.
"As our students start making decisions about what they want their futures to look like and what kind of education they will need, we need to provide opportunities for them to get their questions answered," she said. "This event was designed for our students to connect with local industries, talk about employment and learn what education they might need to work in those fields."
Because the district brought in all students in grades 8-12, there were almost 3,000 students rotating through the Dalton Trade Center and meeting local professionals.
For Morris Innovative High School freshman Karlee Maddux, the event reassured her that she wants to become an electrician.
"That's exactly what I was looking for when I came here and it did help me decide what school I want to go to," she said. "I got to talk to someone about what he does and why he does it. Technology is expanding every day, and there's going to be a high demand for what I want to do."
For others, Future Fest was a chance to get a head start in the process of narrowing many options down.
Dalton High School freshman Bentley Myers said it helped him learn what he needs to accomplish in high school to be prepared for college and beyond.
"We could change our minds in our junior or senior year, so it's definitely helpful to get started early," he said. "There are a lot of jobs out there. The business and flooring representatives piqued my interest today, and I will be looking more into those avenues."
DHS freshman Jayah Kennebrew added that she has her future in nursing planned out. "It showed me the many resources that we have and that we can go to for support," she said. "I got to talk to some of the RNs that are about to graduate at Dalton State and some of the LPNs from Hamilton Medical Center."
Phinney said that at the end of the day, the goal is to inform students about the opportunities that are available locally.
"Selfishly, we'd love for our students to go to school or work wherever they want, but we really love it when they come back home and end up here in Dalton," she said. "It's important for us to make sure they know what is available for them here, both in terms of education and employment. We'd also love for events like this to help them get a sense of what it is they may want to pursue."