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What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
Midwest Region, February 18, 2010
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I’ll never forget a comment  J.C. Bryant  made upon his retirement from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. As he was leaving as manager of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, he said “I can’t believe my career’s over. I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up!”

Columbia Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office biologists Brian Elkington and Joanne Grady spent three Thursday afternoons in February trying to help local middle school students answer this very question. 

Career week is an annual event in the Columbia Public School system.  Our fish biologists have been offering the Service as a career choice for several years. Students are presented with professionals in various job fields during their elective courses.  I spoke with students in the Spanish and French classes.

I was able to dust off my own school-age French to greet the class and open my presentation.  I shared a session at Gentry Middle School with a local city councilperson. While students had some questions about the Service and endangered species, they couldn’t get over the idea that our council members are unpaid! We were both public servants, but a pay check was attached to my job!

Brian shared his sessions at Smithton Middle School with our local Fire Department and at Lange Middle School with the Human Resources manager for our local Bass Pro Shops.  In both cases, the students were interested in our work but really perked up when they saw some of gear we use and fish we catch.  Although competing with the local fire department for a 7th graders attention can be tricky, Brian thinks the Service held its own and, in the end, the students were the real winners that day!

Several of the students were intrigued to learn that we hire high school students every summer through the city’s C.A.R.E. program.  I expect a few of them to submit applications for this program in the coming years.  We’ll continue to work with the Columbia Public Schools and Columbia Parks and Recreation Department to offer youth these opportunities to learn about the Service and natural resource careers.

Contact Info: Joanne Grady, 573-234-2132 x101, joanne_grady@fws.gov



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