TULALIP — The third annual Opportunity Expo served hundreds of students on Tuesday, April 22, from the Marysville School District and beyond, but in spite of what they deemed a very successful turnout throughout the day, event organizers are already considering how to adjust the schedule of next year’s event, to better serve greater numbers of students.
Jodi Runyon, executive assistant to the superintendent of the Marysville School District, estimated that approximately 1,500 visitors stopped by throughout the day, from Marysville and other school districts.
“Around mid-morning, we had students from the Lakewood, Granite Falls and Mukilteo school districts, as well as students from Highland Christian School,” Runyon said. “Every year, we learn a little bit more about how to reach more kids, which serves the mission of our school district, to prepare our students for life after high school, whether that’s in college or a career field.”
According to Runyon, the early morning and midday sessions were more populated, since those were the times when the Marysville School District bused all the 11th-grade students from all eight of its high schools to the Tulalip Resort Orca and Chinook ballrooms.
“We may have to rethink that middle session, just to balance our schedule a bit more,” Runyon said. “It’s tough to coordinate this event in conjunction with lunch periods, and the availability of bus drivers and school staff members, but I’d like to grow that session for the other schools, or else use it to reach down to another grade level or two, because it’s never too early for students to start thinking about the future.”
Another aspect of the Opportunity Expo that Runyon is reconsidering is the afternoon session, for parents and community members, whose turnout was relatively low and whose activity level was much lower in energy, in Runyon’s opinion.
“The rest of the day was a great success, though, which obviously wouldn’t have happened without our partners in the Tulalip Tribes, the Marysville Rotary and the Rotary Education Foundation, as well as all the adults who dedicated their whole day to talking to these kids.”
Those adults included more than 120 college, university, tech, trade, vocational, civic and military representatives, as well as a host of local business owners and other professionals.
“We always like having large groups, because they foster a positive buzz,” Runyon said. “Everyone was so encouraging.”
Marysville Police Officer Dave Vasconi gave a circle of Lakewood High School juniors some insights into life on the force when one of the LHS juniors, Hailey Malakowski, expressed an interest in law enforcement as a career.
“If you come for a ride-along with a patrol officer, come ready to ask plenty of questions,” Vasconi told the students.
“He definitely sold me,” Malakowski said. “I liked hearing how cops are normal people like us, who help each other out when it’s needed. If you have anything you’re interested in, the Opportunity Expo is the place to explore it. Don’t hold back. Try everything out.”
At the same time, fellow LHS junior Paulmer Gregory was receiving an education of his own in law enforcement from Corrections Officer Tracy Crow, of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, as she demonstrated the proper way to apply handcuffs.
“You don’t slap them on, like they do on TV and in the movies,” Crow said. “You hold the handcuffs against the person’s wrists, and gently push through. The cuffs flick around their wrists on itheir own.”
“I’m thinking about going into the military, maybe the Navy or the National Guard, but after that, I’d like to do something like this,” Gregory said. “It’s good to keep your options open. The more people you talk to at the Opportunity Expo, the more information you find out, and the more ideas it can give you about what you might want to do, so don’t be shy.”
Lakewood School District interim Superintendent Dr. Michael Mack estimated that 92 percent of Lakewood High School’s juniors attended this year’s Opportunity Expo, for which he expressed his appreciation to the Marysville School District for allowing them to attend.
“It exposes them to a variety of potential career fields and fields of study that many of them would not have come across on their own,” Mack said. “There’s a value in exploring jobs beyond traditional choices like being a doctor or a lawyer, or working in retail.”
Mack elaborated that, when the LHS juniors returned to their classes, they were led in conversations about what they’d learned from the Opportunity Expo.
“We want them to think about what they can take away from this experience,” Mack said. “It’s great to cruise through all those booths, but how do they then apply that? It’s so much fun to hear kids say, ‘I never knew that,’ when they’re talking about what they saw at the Expo.”