On Feb. 1, the gym at Thomson High School resembled a career fair.
Booths showcasing a variety of elective classes lined the walls. Popular music thumped from loudspeakers as eighth- and ninth-grade students wandered in clusters from table to table, asking questions and learning about the programs from teachers and upperclassmen.
It’s the first time Thomson has presented its Career, Technical and Agricultural Department class offerings to prospective students in quite this way.
In the past, teachers have attempted to recruit rising ninth- and 10th-graders through department tours, but they felt they were still falling short.
Vice Principal Michael Smallwood, who is also the vocational director, said he felt students were coming into high school not knowing about all of the elective classes available to them.
“We decided this year to do something to allow some recruitment of students for the different programs and to allow the students to see what all they are able to do here at the school,” he said.
Teachers and a few of their upperclassmen set up booths job-fair style to showcase what can be learned in each class. Subjects included band, construction, NJROTC, art, health occupations and business. Eight-grade students from Thomson-McDuffie Middle School were invited to attend in the morning to help them make informed course selections during this week’s registration.
Many ninth-graders at the fair said they already felt well-informed of classes that are offered, although junior Ben Hawk said he wishes he had known earlier that there was a construction class. He would have liked to have taken it.
But he has taken a variety of other elective classes, including agriculture, band, theater and NJROTC. He is currently enrolled in health occupations and said he doesn’t feel he’s missed out on a whole lot.
“I’ve had a good high school career,” he said.
The effectiveness of the event won’t be apparent until registration is over, but at least one class quickly experienced a marked increase in interest.
“What I thought was interesting (was) we had gotten away from offering a beginning band. Mr. (Jessie) Morlan said just this morning he had 60 students interested in beginning band,” said Vice Principal Pat Farner.
“These are kids who are not currently in middle school band.”
By 2 p.m., Morlan, the school’s band director, estimated that number had grown to almost 90. He asked students to sign a sheet indicating their interest.
Morlan said he appreciated the opportunity to stay in one place and talk to the students in a more informal setting.
“When they walk around the school, they really don’t get the full flavor of some of the things that we do. This is absolutely awesome,” he said.
The informal setting not only made it easier for students to ask questions, but the relaxed structure allowed students to gravitate toward their own interests. A student who is interested in construction would not be forced to sit through a presentation on the music department, said chorus director Pam McCorkle.
“They’re going to go right where their interest is, and they get more out of that,” she said.