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Explore 2021 to Showcase Curriculum to Career Pathways 


Oct. 1, 2021

More than 2,500 8th graders and teachers in School District U-46 will participate on Thursday, Oct. 7 in a virtual version of Explore 2021. Explore is the District’s annual expo designed to expose students to various careers and demonstrate the connection between academic curriculum and future careers.  

Traditionally, Explore was held inside a large sports arena. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event for the 2020-21 school year was held virtually. Feedback was so positive that organizers decided to keep it as a virtual field trip for this fall, with students participating via Zoom webinars from their classrooms.

“Explore 2021 promises to be an engaging, personalized way for our 8th graders to explore careers and industries and to visit with community professionals specializing in those job fields,” said U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders. “No matter what the format, Explore is always an important part of our efforts to strengthen our work around educational pathways that will serve students in both college and career preparation.” 

In advance of attending Explore 2021, each 8th grader has utilized Naviance — a digital college and career planning system —  to learn which career clusters align with their interests and aptitudes. Using this information, they have worked with counselors to select up to six career exploration sessions on Oct. 7. 

Each session will be hosted by an industry representative and will showcase several career options within that industry cluster. The middle school counselors have also created pre-lessons and a post-lesson so students better understand how their career exploration, interests and insights can be applied to their coursework at U-46 as well as planning for their future. 

Parents of 8th graders were invited to attend a webinar on Sept. 23 to learn what their children would experience during Explore 2021. The webinar was recorded and can be found in English here and in Spanish here

The Alignment Collaborative for Education, a non-profit local organization that brings together community resources and initiatives to support District priorities, is once again partnering with U-46 to organize the event and has recruited local professionals, companies, organizations, and educators to place a spotlight on careers representing a wide range of industry clusters from business to building sciences, engineering to education, and healthcare to hospitality.

“Explore is an introductory opportunity to career exploration that begins a comprehensive approach to preparing students for college and careers,” said Nancy Coleman, executive director of Alignment. “We are very appreciative of how our businesses, organizations, and nonprofit partners have come together to support this virtual event in the most creative way possible to offer something special for our students.” 

Starting this fall, Alignment plans to host quarterly career panels for high school students, as well as college and university admission events featuring representatives from the 12 universities most-attended by U-46 students. 

The Community Advisory Council, then called the Citizens’ Advisory Council, helped the District launch the first expo in the 2015-16 school year. The Alignment Collaborative for Education has since helped expand the expo, first as a weekend event at Elgin Community College and then in 2018 and 2019, as a school-day event at what was then called the Sears Centre.