Goodrich Scholarship Program hosts fair for local middle school students

Photo by Whitley Hettenbaugh
OPS students had the opportunity to attend the Futures Fair and work with some of UNO’s Goodrich scholars.
Juli Oberlander

The UNO Goodrich Scholarship Program and Partnership 4 Kids (P4K) hosted their sixth annual Futures Fair on Wednesday at the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center.

P4K helps students from under-served populations build successful lives from kindergarten to their career through a mentoring and goal-setting program, according to its website.

The nonprofit agency provides Omaha middle school students with the opportunity to explore their interests with the Futures Fair. During the fair, Goodrich scholars served as volunteer ambassadors who guided hundreds of P4K eighth graders through rows of information booths set up by local businesses and UNO programs.

In past years, business professionals from companies such as Metropolitan Utilities District and the Henry Doorly Zoo have presented to P4K students, said Emily Iverson, a former Goodrich graduate student who received her master’s degree in social work and public administration in August 2017.

However, some of the best career and educational advice comes from Goodrich scholars. Throughout the event, Goodrich scholars act as mentors to P4K students by answering their questions about UNO and educational opportunities.

Iverson said she believes middle school is the ideal age to consider future career paths.

“Research shows that the younger you are in exploring career options, the more likely you’re going to do something after high school,” Iverson said.

Iverson said Goodrich was attracted to the opportunity to partner with P4K because of the resources the organization provides to students.

In addition to the Futures Fair, P4K supports students by hosting tours of local businesses, planning summer workshops and inviting professional panels to the classroom in order to expose students to a variety of career fields.

Currently, more than 5,000 students in 22 Omaha Public Schools (OPS) participate in P4K programs. Goodrich scholars seek to support the middle school students by connecting with them on a personal level throughout the event. Like P4K students, many Goodrichers attended OPS and dedicated their time to research post-secondary options.

Because of these similarities, Iverson said Goodrich students can impact P4K eighth graders by sharing their experiences.

Meanwhile, UNO is the ideal location for the fair because it allows students to explore a college atmosphere.

“The students have an experience on a college campus that they might not have until they start touring colleges their senior year of high school,” Iverson said. “The students then have the connection of education and career.”

Patty Patton Shearer, coordinator of recruitment and academic support services at Goodrich, said the Futures Fair allows middle school students to get to know UNO’s programs in a unique way.

“I cannot imagine any other practical event that you would have to showcase opportunity for the future,” Shearer said.

Shearer said the event is essential to the process of lifelong learning, which both P4K and Goodrich strive to offer their students. She said she believes the university benefits from the event as much as P4K students through the eighth graders’ exposure to UNO.

Shearer said she hopes the fair will leave an impression on the eighth graders and that many will attend UNO one day.

“As many times as you can bring students on this campus and create a positive experience,” Shearer said, “I think that is rich.”