|By Paula Canning|
HOLYOKE In an effort to encourage teen girls to consider a wide-range of career opportunities, Girls Inc. will host an interactive career panel on June 4, at the organization's headquarters, 383 Dwight Street.
Open the public at no cost, the event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m.
According to Tamara Adkins, volunteer coordinator for Mentors and Teens Connecting in Holyoke (MATCH), career awareness activities have been an integral part of the MATCH program since its inception.
She explained that, at the event, each panelist will be given a five minute introduction, addressing the audience about their chosen field of work, the rewards and challenges of their job, and what education, skills and personality traits are conducive to success in that particular job.
Following a break and refreshments, Adkins said the girls will have the opportunity to play games with the panelists, such as career scavenger hunt, and to do brief five-question interviews with the panelists of their choice.
Every teen who does the scavenger hunt and an interview will be entered into a raffle for prizes.
She explained that the purpose of the career panel is "to carry on the Girls Inc. tradition of encouraging girls to prepare for interesting work and economic independence.
Ten women are slated to speak at the event, including a homesteader who grows her own food and produces or barters for all of her household needs and a veteran of the first Gulf War, who will discuss the reality of a military career for women.
Adkins said that some of the speakers were chosen on the basis that they excelled in fields that are under-represented, such as engineering, biochemistry, construction contracting, electrical and plumbing trades, anesthesiology, the military and clergy.
Adkins said other speakers were chosen because she felt they had interesting work related stories to share or that they would serve as an inspiration the audience.
She said that some the panelists are already mentors at Girls Inc., while others have no prior connection to the mentor program.
She said she is hoping that some of the girls attending might establish connections with the speakers.
"I would encourage pairs that click to consider keeping in touch via email," she said.
She explained that one of the questions in the game explores professional networking and resources that are available to support girls aspiring to non-traditional fields.
"Hopefully, the panelists can point girls in the right direction as far as scholarships and special programs in their field of interest," she said.
"Once in a while, a teen will tell me she wants to be a lawyer, a biochemist, or, in one case, a marine biologist, but these are the exceptions," she said. "Although there is nothing wrong with nursing or cosmetology, we want girls to know their options and make informed choices from a full range of possibilities."
According to Adkins, girls are often times only express an interest in careers typically held by women, such as cosmetology or nursing.
She said that some of the reasons for this is that girls may be intimidated by male dominated career, or because female socialization can discourage risk-taking and exploration.
"This is exactly what Girls Inc. programs help girls overcome," she said.
Adkins said she is hoping for an attendance of at least 50 people, adding that she has invited organizations such as the Care Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Girl Scouts, Enlace de Familias, and Arco Iris.
She said that previous career panels have been well attended. She said that the organization is likely to continue the career panels in the future.
"Girls Inc. is committed to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold," Adkins said. "Career panels and job shadowing are an important part of making this a reality for Holyoke teens."
Approximately 475 teens are involved in Girls Inc. Teen Center programs, and there are an additional 55 girls ages 5-13 who participate in the after-school program. For more information, contact Adkins at (413) 533-0796 x110.