High school students got to know the region and its available career paths better by participating in the Hampton Roads Chamber’s eXcel Leadership Academy.
“This program is designed to expose you to yourself,” Chamber President Bryan Stephens said in opening remarks to the students.
Chairman Jim Carr of the eXcel academy stressed the value the students have in the world as to future leaders. He challenged them to prepare two questions for each presenter they would visit from July 16 to July 19.
More than 30 students met with professionals in their workplaces and learned about the ins and outs of each career. From Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to the Virginia Beach Police Department to the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier, they saw firsthand what the region had to offer.
They visited the helicopter pad on the roof of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and could see from Portsmouth all the way to Virginia Beach Town Center. They also learned how nurse paramedics aboard Nightingale are cross-trained to be able to step in and fly in case of emergency.
Carolyn Carpenter, president of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, explained there is more to health care than becoming a nurse or a doctor. People in the business administration fields, for instance, are able to work for a hospital.
When at Eastern Virginia Medical School, students entered a mock operating room where they observed how the surgery is done. Participants got a better understanding of the training needed to become a doctor and learned how researchers work to find cures for diseases.
Later, the program embarked on the aircraft carrier where tour guide Charles Gaddis explained joining the Navy is not for the faint of heart, as he stressed the sacrifices people have to make. There may be few breaks and little time spent at home with family. Staying in good physical shape is also important.
"Every day is leg day," Gaddis told the group.
The students were quiet at the start of the program, and some admitted their parents signed them up for the academy instead of signing up by choice. The environment, however, changed as the week progressed. They became more comfortable with each other, and by Friday afternoon, many had exchanged phone numbers and planned to keep in touch.
Many people were able to figure out what career path they would like to pursue after the program. For instance, Jasmine Brown, a rising senior at Norfolk Academy, said the program made her realize her love for the arts.
“I wanted to be the president of the United States,” said Faith Hadley, a rising senior at Maury High School. “Going through this program just ingrained the idea further into my head.”
But not everyone had his or her mind made up by the end of the week.
“I’m still not sure what career I would like to have, but this program opened to my eyes the many job opportunities there are,” said Zoe Lester, a rising senior at Norfolk Academy.
By the end of the program, students had the ability to reach out to a number of contacts from each of the places they visited to get more information or pursue the possibility of a future job or internship.
The students also learned about architecture firm Clark Nexsen, The Van Syckle Group, Port of Virginia, the Chesapeake mayor's office, the Chrysler Museum, Hatch Norfolk, WTKR and Old Dominion University.