It’s not every day that a helicopter lands at school, but that was just part of the fun for East Knox County Elementary students last week.
East Knox celebrated its Career Day on Tuesday, Nov. 20, and students got to meet engineers, graphic artists, first responders, Knoxville Zoo staff and even K-9 Rocky, a Czech German Shepherd from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
The event was organized by school counselors Jessica Owens and Ellen Quarles, and builds on college and career lessons that the school offers regularly.
East Knox and other KCS elementary schools organize a “minute meeting” with individual students during the school year and ask those students what they want to do when they grow up. At East Knox, the most popular responses were police officer, teacher, nurse or a job that cares for animals.
Owens, who was previously a high school counselor, said in that job she emphasized the importance of students developing a four-year plan, including a strong 9th-grade year and preparing for standardized tests in the 11th-grade year.
With elementary students, she focuses on the ways that good habits will prepare them for success later in their academic careers.
“Being a veterinarian begins today, in first grade, because being responsible, being organized, being a team player, all of those skill sets are learned today,” she said.
During the event, some students wore outfits related to the careers they want to pursue, including SWAT team officers, construction workers and ballerinas. Assistant principal Jennifer Morrell said one student wore a Nintendo T-shirt, which represented a plan to work as a computer coder.
Among other things, Career Day featured a presentation by Jim Snowden, Knox County director of Engineering and Public Works; a presentation by Knoxville Zoo staff, who brought along some zoo animals; and an appearance by an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter from the local 1-230th Air Cavalry Squadron. The squadron is stationed at McGhee Tyson Airport, and the helicopter landed at the school’s ball field.
The festivities were planned for the day before the Thanksgiving break as part of a broader effort to bolster school attendance. Morrell said East Knox will also host a nacho party for any students who achieve a 95 percent attendance rate throughout the year.
Reed Enos, a kindergarten student, got to meet officer Tim Laycock of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and try on a helmet with a visor.
Enos wants to work in law enforcement when he grows up: “I like police officers,” he said.
Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes the blog Hall Pass for the KCS website.