Leaders tell Chestnut Oaks students to 'dream big' at career forum

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 1/25/18

"Dream big and set goals." That was the key message Wednesday as seven local business leaders spoke to a group of 60 eighth-graders at Chestnut Oaks Middle School's first-ever career forum.

Sponsored by Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the …

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Leaders tell Chestnut Oaks students to 'dream big' at career forum

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"Dream big and set goals." That was the key message Wednesday as seven local business leaders spoke to a group of 60 eighth-graders at Chestnut Oaks Middle School's first-ever career forum.

Sponsored by Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, the event allowed groups of students to rotate around for round-table discussions with each leader and hear what it takes to be successful in today's business world.

The seven leaders in attendance came from various career fields - the military, business and industry, higher education and others - but all emphasized to the students the importance of education and at least finishing high school and earning their diploma. Each leader also explained the steps he or she had to take to advance into careers.

Dennis Turner, chairman of the Chamber's Education Committee, has helped lead the forums in Sumter School District for about five years now.

Originally, the forums were held at just the three high schools in the district, but this year they have been expanded to all seven middle schools, Turner said.

Turner and the professionals spoke to the students at Chestnut Oaks, at 1200 Oswego Road, on various topics, including the importance of individual responsibility, character, motivation and attitude.

Many leaders, including engineer James Robinson, emphasized the importance of dreams and goal setting to the school's eighth-graders, who generally come from a high-poverty area of the county.

"First, you have to get your dream; then you set your goals," Robinson said. "The goals are the steps you need to accomplish to meet that dream. Once you start checking those off, you see you are getting closer and closer to your dream."

A senior manufacturing engineer with Kaydon Corp., Robinson was then asked by a student if he had ever experienced failure in his job.

"Yes, everybody is going to have failure," Robinson said. "You're not just going to go out there, first gate, and be successful at every opportunity. You're going to fail. What makes a failure disappointing or bad is when you don't learn from it. Always learn from your mistakes."

Eighth-grader Dajan Vanburen, who wants to be an architectural engineer, said he learned at the forum that life is not all about money.

"Doing the right thing" Vanburen said, "and believing in yourself is important."