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Hands-On Work Makes for Different Kind of Career Day

April 11, 2008 — Elena Christian Junior High students spent Friday morning hearing from professionals in 20 fields, from modeling to marine biology.
In that respect the career day was much like any other. But this one was a bit more intensive than most. Instead of tables set up with flyers and a person ready to answer questions, students signed up in advance, choosing two hour-long presentations to attend.
"It's about providing exposure to our or students to assist them in making their career decisions and help them think about how to begin to specialize," Principal Willard John said. "We took a survey asking the kids who they are interested in hearing from. Then we went and found professionals in those fields."
The innovative method was the brainchild of Orville James, president of the Elena Christian Parent Teacher Student Association.
In one room, St. Croix Vocational School culinary program instructor Anton Doos led a class in making chocolate pasta from scratch.
"Ever make a cake with mayonnaise?" Doos said, prompting responses of "eww."
"Well, what's in mayonnaise?" he said. "Egg yolk, oil, a little lemon juice, some salt; all those are in cake, too. Think about these basic building blocks of many dishes."
In another room, Sharlene Williams, a student teacher and senior at the University of the Virgin Islands, spoke about teaching and about how to go about seeking work at the outset of your career, from resumes to how to present yourself in an interview.
"Your resume is the first thing they see," Williams told the students, giving them pointers on how to make their resumes look professional. "If you don't get in the door with the resume, they will never get a chance to see how you perform."
Reggae musician and entrepreneur Laurent "Tippy" Alfred was a popular speaker, with perhaps 50 students listening to him sing and speak in the school's auditorium.
"Many successful musicians have come from St. Croix, especially in reggae," he said. "You all know Abja, and the band Midnite?"
Alfred, who owns Riddims, a Christiansted music store with a Caribbean focus, mixed career advice with a bit of philosophy and a lesson on priorities.
"The most important thing in my life is my spiritual life," he said. "I'm Rastafarian. For me it is not really a formal religion, but a way of life, a path to a natural life. Second is my family. Then comes my passion: music. I could play and listen to music all day. But I have three children. As a father I have to make a living, so business must be taken care of. But notice it is not at the top. It is fourth. It must be done. It is important, but it isn't the main focus of life."
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge George Cannon told the students how he worked his way through college and law school, working long hours at sometimes menial jobs in pursuit of a higher goal.
"One of my jobs, I was a sanitation engineer," he said. "You know what that means? I was a janitor. I loved that one, because the pay was good. … Now it's all paid off. I've got the career, the paycheck, the nice car and house. You can get there, too."
Among the many other career directions discussed Friday were horse training, veterinary medicine, fire and rescue, nursing and jobs at the Hovensa refinery.
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