By JOHN BORGOLINI
Fulton County Express

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton-Montgomery Community College and Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery County Board of Cooperative Education Services are no strangers to helping people get ready for their chosen career.
However, things were a little different last week as eighth graders from schools throughout Fulton County met with employers throughout the county.
The two campuses hosted the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eighth Grade Career Exploration Day last week, and eighth graders had a chance to learn about a variety of careers including law enforcement, computer maintenance, cooking and more.
One of the more popular stops in FMCC’s gymnasium, where the local businesses were set up, was the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office. Students were shown equipment from metal detectors to riot shields, and some even got an up close demonstration with handcuffs.
A couple tables over, Courtney Javarone and Ben Towne were talking about what they could expect if they chose to work at Johnstown’s Townsend Leather. Some of the projects they discussed with the students was products they contributed to the Dallas Cowboys’ six-year-old stadium and a few projects that involved the company supplying interior leather for Air Force One.
Javarone and Towne explained to the students that Townsend Leather primarily produces leather for jet interiors and also for interior design.
“What I think fascinates me the most is they were very, very interested in the process from start to finish. [They asked], ‘How do you make leather.” Towne said. “It was very interesting to run through the processes front to back.”
Javarone and Towne also said they were impressed that the students were engaging at the event, despite being five years removed from beginning their careers or the education for their careers.
Javarone said she thought the event was very helpful with getting the students thinking about what they are interested in and thinking about a possible career at their age.
“I liked seeing them kind of realize what there is out there for them,” she said. “It’s not like, ‘You can be this,’ or ‘You can be that.’ There are so many things you can do without going to college, with going to college. With your interest, you can pick anything. And it does kind of open up the conversation of, ‘Are you going to go to college? What are you going to do when you go to college?’ – It kind of gets the idea in their mind that it is so far off, but still I have to work on this, this, this and this to be able to get there.”
Across the gymnasium was Chuck Torres, who was representing The Geek Pantology – a computer service and repair company located on Market Street in Amsterdam.
Torres said he explained to students what he did in a day, which is a lot of service and repair to computers.
He also had several parts of the computer to explain what’s inside of the “mysterious box.”
Torres also thought the event was important and helpful for middle school students.
“I think it’s important for the kids to see what’s out there,” he said. “I think a lot of students, they’re in their small little sphere of influence, and sometimes that’s only in between home and school. It’s important for them to get out to events like these to see that there is industry around us that’s still thriving, that they can be a part of. It also gives them goals to set for themselves too. A lot of the kids that I saw today said, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know about this or that or the other.’ That gives them something to kind of shoot for. If that maybe helps them do a little better in math or science or art, that’s a positive. That’s important for them – It’s a kind of neat stepping stone for students to be able to cultivate their learning and choose a direction, or even different directions that they may have not thought about before.”
Next door at HFM BOCES’s campus, students were able to get a more hands-on with choices like auto body and cooking, the latter being a popular choice of many eighth graders.
HFM Chef Instructor Kevin Collins had some of his seniors help the middle school students make their choice of egg rolls or cupcakes.
Collins also said the event was great for giving the students a chance to see what is available to them once they complete high school. He said he believes it’s also helpful for the eighth graders to participate in the hands-on activities that many of the BOCES workshops were offering.
FMCC President Dustin Swanger said he and the college were happy to participate in the event and show younger students that there are companies in the Fulton and Montgomery county areas for people to work.
Swanger said he believes few students today know what businesses and opportunities are available in the two counties.
“A lot of the companies are smaller companies than in the past,” he said. “I think anything we can do to highlight that there are in fact businesses and employment opportunities in our two counties is great.”