Free to be

Girls think like women, explore choices at conference Tuesday

Eighth-grader Hannah Terrill quickly learned that living on a waitress's salary of less than $1,000 a month would be difficult to do, especially while trying to raise a 6-month-old baby.

After budgeting for rent, utilities, medical insurance and taking care of a dog, it became apparent that little money would be left at the end of each month.

Terrill's scenario represented a snapshot of possible life choices that eighth-graders from Craig Middle School explored at the Girls to Women/Women to Girls conference at the Holiday Inn on Tuesday.

"This lets you know how life really is when you grow up," Terrill said, tallying up a list of hypothetical bills while playing the game Reality Check. "I'm going to be broke."

Terrill, like some other girls, didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. Halfway through the daylong conference, she considered becoming an actress or a lawyer.

Tawni Bullock, an eighth-grader seated nearby, thought she might like to pursue a career in the medical field or cosmetology.

"I'm learning about what kinds of jobs I might be interested in," she said. "I like doing hair, and I'm good with kids."

A number of girls dressed in professional-looking attire for the event, which aims to expand eighth-grade girls' career options. A dozen professions were featured with as many as three speakers from each category. Each spoke about their jobs. Professions included employment in the legal, medical, media and education fields.

The event was created four years ago by a group of Craig professional women in response to statistics that showed working-women's wages fell behind men's, said event organizer Patti Askew.

"If they have some concept of what they want to do, they can start choosing classes along that course line," she said.

In conjunction with the girls' conference, the Boys & Girls Club of Craig offered an abbreviated form of the same event geared toward eighth-grade boys. Its speakers included a male nurse who flew Flight for Life missions and representatives from the military and business communities.

"It was more about what you need to do to achieve your goals," said BGCC director Jonathan Godes. "One kid said that he never thought of being a nurse as a cool job. I think it really changed their perceptions on things."

Craig Middle School counselor Kathy Bockelman said some students have determined their career paths, while others are unsure.

The conference gave them a chance to weigh their options.

"When you ask kids to list their possibilities for a job, you get maybe four to five options," she said. "I hope they learn that there are lots of possibilities out there."

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