Before school June 4, Egg Harbor Township High School sophomore Austin Hand was unsure about his professional aspirations.
While he had been part of the school's Medical Science Academy since his freshman year, Austin didn't know just what area of the field he hoped to go into. But after a quick trip around the school's Medical Job Fair, he had his future mapped.
"I've solidified my decision," said Austin, who now hopes to become a physician's assistant and, ultimately, an orthopedist. "I was kind of hesitant about it."
More than a dozen medical professionals from disciplines like pediatrics, nursing and pharmacy discussed their vocations with a few hundred interested students at the program.
The career fair was organized as a joint venture between the school's guidance office and library by guidance counselors Jennifer Leonetti, Casie Wexler, Nicole Theophall and Lindsey Salerno, librarian Dawn Grossman and library clerk Kim Dempsey.
EHTHS began offering this model of career fair - which emphasizes individual and small-group interaction between students and professionals - last year after the staff realized that students' needs were not being served in large-group discussions, Theophall said.
While EHTHS previously has featured medical professionals in its career fairs, the June 4 fair was the first one tailored specifically to the medical field. This was done to satisfy high student demand.
The career fair was the third or fourth attended by Egg Harbor Township-based pharmacist Dr. Mark Taylor, who said he takes part to allow the students a luxury he himself didn't have while in school.
"It's nice to be able to talk to somebody who does it," Taylor said. "I know when I was in high school, we didn't have career fairs. It was kind of like, you just went out and did it."
One of the most popular new additions to the career fair's roster was Georgetown rising sophomore nursing student Camille Dirago, who graduated from Egg Harbor Township High School in 2012.
Many eager students surrounded Dirago's table, peppering her with questions about her career choice and experience so far.
Dirago said she believed the students found her perspective valuable because she had been in their shoes just a year before.
"Some of these people have been in their careers for 10, 15 years and don't remember what it's like to have to go through that and try to decide," Dirago said. "I think the fact it was so recent for me helped."
The job fair organizers solicited feedback through surveys they distributed to students, and will tailor next year's offerings to fit their findings.
They also plan to expand their professional contact list next year by giving out letters at back-to-school night.
Professionals interested in volunteering their time at a future general career fair should call Theophall at 609-653-0100, ext. 1625. Professionals from all careers are invited to volunteer.
Contact Braden Campbell: