Young Detroiters discover water-linked educational and career pathways at Detroit River Youth Career Expo

Source: Michigan News

Lavonnes Bolds, far right, attended the Detroit River Youth Career Expo to learn more about maritime careers. Credit: Elana Maloul.

Lavonnes Bolds, a forestry student in his final year at Michigan State University, was one young person who attended the recent Detroit River Youth Career Expo to learn how to explore his passions and build his career right here in Michigan

“I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life, and my two biggest goals are to help the environment and my community,” he said. After attending the fair, he’s considering a career with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, one of 21 organizations represented at the event.

Seventy-five young people aged 15-25 met with recruiters on June 22 from a variety of educational institutions, non-profits, and local companies in a glass-walled gallery overlooking the Detroit River.

The event was hosted at the riverfront dock facility of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority in partnership with the University of Michigan’s Detroit River Story Lab, an interdisciplinary initiative centered on community connections to the Detroit River.

“The identity of communities up and down the river has been closely tied to the river for hundreds of years,” said David Porter, U-M professor of English and director of the story lab.  “We hope to continue bringing educators and employers together to showcase the wide range of pathways — in maritime trades and STEM fields, but also culture, communications, health, and education — that folks inspired by river stories have chosen to pursue.”

Angela Dillard, vice provost for undergraduate education at U-M. Credit: David Porter.

The expo offered hands-on insight into Great Lakes linked career opportunities. Participants learned about educational and career opportunities in a variety of sectors including the Michigan maritime industry, and toured a 224-foot training vessel that had sailed to Detroit for the event from the Great Lakes Maritime Academy.

Maritime activity on the Great Lakes is responsible for 6,000 jobs and $1 billion of economic activity in metro Detroit, according to the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority. 

Clusters of participants gathered at the information tables hosted by the Great Lakes Maritime Academy and U-M faculty representing fields from biology and history to education. Staff at other tables pitched government positions in conservation with the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan DNR, and well-paid job opportunities on cargo ships with the Interlake and American Steamship companies.

State of Michigan tour. Credit: David Porter.

High school senior Alex Potter enjoyed a tour of  the Great Lakes Maritime Academy training vessel The State of Michigan, which included a visit to the ship’s bridge, main deck, and classroom, where students had the chance to hear from current cadets about the academy’s four-year college program. “I knew there were ship captains,” Potter said. “I didn’t know how you became one.”

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