By Cody Thompson

Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – Workforce Solutions East Texas and the East Texas Council of Government will host its third annual “Dream Expo” for local incoming high school students at the Palestine Civic Center on Tuesday, April 18.

Students across the state are faced with the daunting task of choosing a career path as they enter high school due to the passage of House Bill 5.

“It can be a very frightening and confusing task for a 14-year-old to try to choose a career that they’re going to be happy with for the rest of their life,” ETCOG director of workforce and economic development Doug Shryock told the Messenger on Wednesday. “We’re just trying to give these kids some guidance to help them in making that decision.”

When a student now enters high school, they must choose one of five endorsed career paths, according to House Bill 5. These career paths are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and industry, public service, arts and humanities and multi-disciplinary studies.

“I remember it being difficult to decide on what I wanted to do and changing my major several times as an adult in college,” Shryock said. “With the expo, we’re trying to give the students an opportunity to explore and see what the different industries are all about and give them a little more insight into the different fields.”

This year’s expo is designed to help assist students with the policy change. Students from across Anderson County will have the chance to explore each of the different endorsed fields and get hands-on experience with job related equipment.

“I know there will be a firetruck at the expo with fireman decked out in full firefighting regalia for the kids to talk to,” Shryock said. “One of the local hospitals is bringing a lifeflight helicopter that the kids will get to go inside and see what it’s like to be a helicopter EMT.”

The expo will have booths set-up that will play host to public service organizations, business and industry representatives, oil and gas representatives, continuing education agencies, including Trinity Valley Community College and the Texas State Technical College and much more.

The expo is an invitation-only event and has received commitments from the the following schools to attend: Cayuga ISD, Elkhart ISD, Frankston ISD, Neches ISD, Palestine ISD, Slocum ISD and Westwood ISD.

“So far, we’re expecting a great turnout for this year,” Shryock said. “We’re expecting around 700 kids to be in attendance from Anderson County public and private schools, and there are going to be at least 27 representatives from different industries at the expo.”

Students also will have the opportunity to participate in various games and activities at the expo, including a rock climbing wall.

ETCOG host the first “Dream Expo” in Athens in 2015, and the 2016 expo was held in Henderson.

“ETCOG covers an area around 10,000 square miles, so we unfortunately don’t get to do an expo for every county each year,” Shyrock said, “but we will continue hosting them for the kids as long as the schools keep coming.”

Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at cthompson@messenger-news.com.