Lee County students explore careers in a converted school bus

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LEE COUNTY

The Lee County School District thinks outside the box when it comes to the future of young students. They turned an old school bus into a career exploration lab.

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we often ask kids, and it can be hard to answer, but Lee County Schools hopes that when students board the converted school bus, they’ll be exposed to a career they can enjoy. might not have thought of before.

“It’s the Excel bus. It’s a great career exploration lab,” said Kelly Thawley, Lee County Schools Specialist and Career Specialist.

The Excel Bus is making stops at elementary schools in Lee County this year.

“Just a chance for students to explore careers here in Southwest Florida and start thinking about the different paths they need to take,” Thawley said.

Inside the Lee County Schools Excel Bus. (Credit: NEWS WINK)

The Mobile Career Exploration Classroom is designed for fifth graders.

Instead of rows of seats, you’ll find interactive stations for students to learn about different careers and embark on their future.

“The sooner students start thinking about their likes and dislikes, it’s just as important to know what they don’t like. Students cannot be what they cannot see. So it gives them a chance to see what’s possible and what the opportunities are,” Thawley said.

RV station on the Lee County Schools Excel Bus. (Credit: NEWS WINK)

The district partners with major employers like the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Lee Health. The hospital system says it’s never too early to plant the seed.

“But we believe in starting with our local and making sure our young people understand that it’s available. That’s one way to build that pipeline. Sure, we recognize they’re a few years away from employment, but you can never start too young,” said Jennifer Thayer, manager of workforce planning and development at Lee Health.

Dental station inside the Lee County Schools Excel bus. (Credit: NEWS WINK)

“I think it shows how awesome our community is here in Southwest Florida and that there are a lot of companies willing to interact with students and prepare a station and make it look like what a day might look like in life so students can have that experience without actually being on the job site,” Thawley said.

When they get off the bus, they are inspired to be the next doctor, dentist, construction worker or sheriff’s deputy in our community.

The district was able to create the Excel Bus thanks to a federal grant. The district career specialist actually studied to get her commercial driver’s license so she could drive the bus to all the schools.

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