Summer Academy Helps Middle School Students Explore Careers

posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in  College News

WATERLOO—Aakitah Muhummad had big plans in mind Monday when she tried out a computer-aided design program at Hawkeye Community College.

But the girl, who just finished sixth grade at Central Middle School, discovered there was a lot to learn before she could create complex designs with the program. Muhummad ended up creating an elongated rectangle with a brick pattern on it, sort of a two-dimensional version of a brick wall.

“I wanted to make a house originally, but I got confused,” she said. “There was a lot of challenges. But if you just calm down and think about it, you can do it.”

Muhummad is one of 30 students going into seventh and eighth grade next year who are part of the Educational Talent Search summer academy this week, the first of two sessions. Another 30 students are expected for the second session. Unlike past years, the program is entirely taking place at Hawkeye, where students will have a chance to do career exploration each day.

Educational Talent Search is a college access program offered through the University of Northern Iowa Center for Urban Education in downtown Waterloo. Students can enroll starting in sixth grade and the academy was open at no cost to those in their first and second year with the program.

“We wanted to expose them early to what campus life is like,” said Sunni Kegebien, Talent Search director. Hawkeye’s student life department is providing art and physical wellness activities each day. On Monday, students also practiced writing in cursive, a skill some of them said they had spent little to no time on in school.

Computer-aided design is part of the civil and construction engineering technology program. A variety of other fields will be part of the career exploration, as well. They include landscape and turf management, ag business management, emergency medical services, physical therapy assisting, and dental hygiene.

For a little more than an hour on Monday, students learned about engineering from professor Paresh Shettigar. Students were stationed at computers where they could work on some basic designs.

Shettigar explained that civil and construction engineering deals with infrastructure like roads, bridges and water supply systems. “All of that stuff has to be designed, it has to be modeled.” He noted with computers that can be done in a two- or three-dimensional format.

Xavier Teague was familiar with computer-aided design. He has used a similar program in a Project Lead the Way engineering class at Hoover Middle School. Teague just finished seventh grade there this spring.

As a result, much of what the group did Monday in Shettigar’s class was a review for him. “There’s some new things in there,” he said. That included putting the patterns on the designs, such as bricks, and coloring them.

“I made a little rocket ship,” said Teague, decorated with the brick design.

Alex Vukadin, who is also going into eighth grade at Hoover, knew a little bit about computer-aided design, as well, through what he had learned in Boy Scouts. That has given him some ideas about a possible career path after college.

“I already know what I want to do,” said Vukadin, noting he hopes to become a nuclear engineer.

Taleigha Davis and Diana Castellon created a hexagon-shaped design on the computer. “I liked the coloring part,” said Davis.

The girls admitted it was interesting to learn about computer-aided design, but neither is interested in career where they’d use the skill.

“I want to be a marine biologist,” said Davis, who will be a seventh-grader at Bunger Middle School in the fall.

“I want to be a nurse,” said Castellon, who is going into eighth grade at George Washington Carver Academy.

Kegebein said it’s OK if students aren’t interested in all of the career areas they explore during the camp.

“The idea behind it was to expose them to different careers they may not know about,” she said.

By Andrew Wind, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


  1. Career Exploration
  2. Central Middle School
  3. Civil and Construction Engineering Technology
  4. Educational Talent Search Academy
  5. Summer Camp
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