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Business symposium opens world to students

By Staff | Nov 20, 2015

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce hosted their 34th annual High School Business Symposium Nov. 13, bringing together high school students and local business leaders to share ideas and thoughts on the business climate in Jefferson County. The students were selected by school counselors as top students in business and marketing classes from both Washington and Jefferson high schools.

Amy Panzarella, president of the Chamber and moderator for the day’s event, opened the day with words of praise to the student attendees, saying they had been selected for participation because they are viewed as leaders in their schools.

Students spent time interviewing the businesspersons at their respective tables and then had to introduce those business people to the crowd.

A consistent question for the symposium year after year focuses on what can be done in the county to encourage students to return and live and work here after college.

Students responded with the suggestions that more jobs need to be available within the county-and not just small business or fast food jobs. They shared that businesses need to be more forthcoming in promoting themselves to students so that awareness of what is in the county is more known.

In addition, the students consistently said that there needs to be more recreational activities as well as affordable housing in Jefferson County.

When asked what Jefferson County schools have done to prepare them for moving ahead beyond high school, several students said they have received opportunities through business and other elective classes to learn things that may help them in the future.

However, comments were shared that the high schools in the county do little to nothing to provide information to students on possible jobs in the county or elsewhere. Guidance counselors were labeled as completely ineffective by many of the students.

Students also claimed that there are very few life skills taught in the schools. A newly established program in the schools, LINKS, was commented upon several times. Many students expressed that the program has potential; however, there are too many students and teachers who don’t take it seriously.

Things the students would change about their schools centered largely on thing such as grading scales. The students would prefer to see a 10-point grading scale which is what most school systems use. They would also like to see a change in school hours that allow high school students to start later in the day.

More career days with in the schools as well as more communication to students about business opportunities would also be beneficial.

Panzarella took an opportunity to explain the upcoming levy election to the students although most in the room are ineligible to vote to to their age.

After a lunch break, students gathered for an activity hosted by Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, that required them to take a variety of objects placed in a paper bag and create a product. The students then had to present their project to the group in a way to make others want to purchase it.