The concourse at the BB&T Center was packed with high school juniors instead of hockey fans today: more than 70 businesses were passing out wisdom and opportunities to 1,400 kids at the Claim Your Future showcase.
Broward County Public Schools partnered with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and sponsors such as Wells Fargo to create the event, knowing that junior year is a pivotal planning time for high school kids.
"One goal is to connect the business community with our schools and our students to make sure we make that connection as a pipeline to the workforce, the second goal is to create awareness for our students on the career opportunities available in our community," explained Enid Valdez, the school district's director of career, technical, and adult education.
In the food court, colleges including FIU, NSU, and Broward College were serving up scholarship information instead of burgers and pizza.
"Going to college is the most important thing to me," said Marcus Blake, a student at Hollywood Hills High School.
His classmate, Jonathan Ramos, agreed, saying, "They explained to us how to apply for scholarships."
However, not every student goes to college, so some businesses, like Advance Roofing and MasTec, were emphasizing apprenticeship programs.
"And it's just a great opportunity to create value for the student as they progress through their career," said Clay Thomas of Advance Roofing.
"They can start right out of high school and come and work as an employee for Mastec and get training, they can also go to college, do an internship with us while they're in college," said Taryn Mazone, MasTec's director of government affairs. "There's a job opportunity in almost anything with our company or other large companies like this."
Students were able to talk to representatives from a wide variety of career paths, from the Sunrise Police Department to Broward Health to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
"I'm really grateful to be here and actually get a grasp of all the different aspects and career options that we have," said Alicia Vailleux, a Hollywood Hills High School student.
The event featured breakout sessions, which received good reviews from the kids.
"It's been quite educational and eye-opening," said Victoria Bravo of Deerfield Beach High School.
The sessions included one on how to write a resume, another on how to use the Naviance portal, which connects students to colleges, and every student went through a mock job interview conducted by volunteers from the business world.
"So I was able to see what it's like to have an interview for the first time so I was able to find out what I should work on," said Alvaro Beneas of Plantation High School.
Lina Landron of Deerfield Beach High School told me she wants to be the CEO of her own company one day. I asked her if she was leaving this event feeling empowered.
"Yeah, definitely, knowing that I know what to do now," Lina said.
Some things are just better learned outside the classroom.