Career Day Inspires Students


Photo by Katie Madiagan

A highlight of the career day was the K-9 unit who demonstrated how their police dogs work in the field.

Over thirty volunteers, including attorneys, educators, and even a fighter pilot, came to Longfellow Middle School to share their careers with students for the first-ever in-person Career Day.

From a police K – 9 Unit to a World Bank to a moving company, students had many options to explore. The event was organized by student counselor Vaughnetta Caldwell.

“It was a little break from the norm, which people enjoyed,” said Caldwell. “I think people were anxious, too, about how it was all going to be, but they were pleasantly surprised.”

The Career Day event was a success, with many hands-on opportunities as well as interesting speakers.  Students chose their top three options earlier in the week, with time allotted to see two different presenters.

One of the most popular presentations was the police K-9 unit, hosted in English teacher Tom Grady’s classroom.  They explained that being in the K-9 unit takes years of experience even to be considered.  They are an elite unit.

“These officers are the elite,” said Grady. “They brought the dogs with them, and they had a bite suit,” he said.

Careful to let students know that the dogs are only brought out against the really “bad guys,”  they started their demonstration by having a so-called bad guy running away, wearing the bite suit, of course.  The dog was sent after him, but halfway there, the “bad guy” raised his hands and surrendered.  The officer gave the command to stop.  It was a very effective demonstration.

“Amazingly, the dog that was in full charging mode immediately stopped and went to his belly,” described Grady.

Even more impressive was when they showed what happens when the bad guy makes the wrong decision.  The dog is trained to latch on somewhere around the bad guy’s tricep and hold on until given the command to let go.  The “bad guy” (who, remember, is wearing a bite suit and was not harmed in this demonstration) showed this by trying to shake the dog off.

“No way that was happening,” said Grady.

Afterward, students learned about the different kinds of dogs employed in police work.  Bloodhounds are used for tracking because of their sense of smell, and they’re not interested in biting anyone.  Other dogs are trained to sniff out drugs, and one dog is trained to sniff out computer cards.

Eighth grade student Connor C. also learned about police work, but his presentation was about detective work.  He enjoyed the presentation because they were very hands-on.

“They had a fingerprint kinda thing where you could find your fingerprints, or you could make your fingerprint on a piece of paper,” Conner described.

They had several stations where students could use a black light to search for evidence, take their own fingerprints, or interact with mini-crime-scene dioramas.  The detective event inspired Connor to learn what detectives do.

Elaina Bafaro, an education specialist at Longfellow, was able to circulate among the events and saw both of the police presentations above.

“I had so much fun attending LMS’ Career Day. It was a great event! Both sessions were a huge hit with the students and staff. Hopefully, we can have them back next year!” Bafaro said.

Student Maher D. chose to see the Senior Chief Musician, a saxophone player in the Navy, since she is also interested in the saxophone. It highlighted opportunities to play music as part of the armed forces.

Career Day was a fun event for volunteers, as well.

“What a lovely way to spend a morning!” said presenter Jaime Lees, the Chief Data Officer for Arlington County. “I was so pleased with how attentive and participatory the students were. The teacher whose room it was was very gracious and helpful, and [my daughter, one of the student volunteers] was over the moon to be able to guide me ’round the school and have a name tag. A great day all around; thank you for inviting me and executing so smoothly.” she said in a congratulatory email to Ms. Caldwell.

Lees’ work involves using the County’s data to measure how well it is serving the community.  The data helps the county to plan what they should be working on in the future and to develop innovative services and service delivery solutions.

“Mostly I build cool dashboards, like race equity and Covid, and make sure we have effective and ethical processes in place,” said Lees.

The Career Day event was very successful and popular with students, teachers, and many members of the Longfellow community. Ms. Caldwell said that organizing Career Day was a lot of work but very rewarding as an educator.

“A lot of staff, parents, and students have shared with me that they found it very successful and engaging,” said Ms. Caldwell, who is looking forward to making this a regular feature at Longfellow.