The Killeen Independent School District’s Career Center opened its doors this week to eighth-grade students for its first districtwide college and career expo.

More than 2,600 students from the district’s middle schools went to the center Wednesday and Thursday to get information.

“We thought this would be a great chance for these students to think about their future,” said Jan Rainwater, director of guidance services. “These students will be going into high school next year, so they need to begin thinking about what they want to do after graduation.”

At the expo, students toured the center and met with representatives from local businesses in 16 career “clusters,” as well as with representatives from local colleges, universities and the military.

The students chose one of the 16 career categories and met with members of businesses in those areas.

“They are going to get to ask questions and get more information about what these careers and colleges are about, and what they can do to begin working toward their goals,” said Robert Burns, a campus instructional specialist at Eastern Hills Middle School. “We want to show them all the possibilities and opportunities that are out there for them.”

Burns held a similar expo for students at Eastern Hills in previous years before it was expanded to include all the middle schools.

For business owners like Perry Cloud, owner of Cloud Construction, the expo offered the chance to speak with students interested in getting into construction and architecture, and tell them firsthand what employers in the industry are looking for.

“You have a lot of good opportunities to get a head start,” said Perry, whose company managed the construction of the Career Center. “Make sure you take advantage of them.”

More than 100 vendors attended the event, including the U.S. Postal Service, Bell County Public Health Department, KNCT television, and the Killeen police and fire departments.

Representatives from Central Texas College, Temple College and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor also attended the expo.

When it comes to thinking about post-high school plans, it’s never too early to start, said 11th-grade Career Center student Jordan Oliver.

“It’s definitely good to have an idea of what you want to do ahead of time,” Oliver said. “That way you can get out ahead of things and prepare.”

Oliver is training at the center to be a welder. He said taking classes at the center helped teach him basic skills, which helped him land a welding job in the summer.

“I was really glad I took the opportunity to get ahead of the game,” he said. “I’m 16 and I already was able to get a job, and getting that training here early helped a lot.”

Whether the students plan to attend the center for career training or plan to move on to college, Burns said it was important students get a glimpse of the many opportunities they will have in high school and beyond.

“Next year they will be in high school,” Burns said. “Then it’s only four short years until graduation.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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