Morgan Matlock is getting ready to complete the nursing program at the Kiamichi Technology Center’s Poteau Campus, so she and a group of her fellow students traveled to McAlester on Wednesday in search of future employment.
Matlock and her companions were among approximately 1,100 students and hundreds of adults who attended the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Career Development Expo held Wednesday at the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester.
The event focused on the career expo’s theme, called “Pathways to Success, A Choctaw Tradition!”
Matlock, like most of those at the Expo Center Wednesday, hoped the path would lead to employment.
“There’s about 19 of us,” Matlock said of the group of Poteau nursing students. “We’re here job-hunting.”
“We’re getting ready to graduate,” added Larrissa Allen, another nursing student from KTC’s Poteau Campus.
Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton welcomed many of the students during a morning orientation event.
Pyle spoke of the employment and higher education opportunities available at the career expo.
“That’s why we’re having this, so you won’t have to move to the big city — so you can stay here in our area that we love,” Pyle said.
Motivational speaker Grant Baldwin soon had the students attending his session laughing with at his humorous anecdotes as he spoke in the large meeting room on the Southeast Expo Center’s east side.
Meanwhile, on the west side, job hunters and employers interacted among the 150 booths set up at the event.
Cindy Mitchell, who teaches business technology computer and accounting courses at the Kiamichi Technology Center’s Stigler Campus, said she brought 34 students to McAlester for the career expo.
“Last year, I had a student get a job here,” she said. Mitchell said the event is a good way to let her students meet potential employers and see what’s available in careers.
Ashley Kennon, of McAlester, and Jaynie Boothe, of Austin, Texas, were at the career expo on behalf of Premier Hospitality Management, which includes Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Comfort Suites.
Asked about her impressions of the event, Boothe said “There are a lot of opportunities here. Everybody is very helpful.”
One part of the career expo had several displays set up to resemble an early Choctaw village, complete with a display of wood and red lights designed to resemble an outdoor campfire.
A group of heating and air conditioning students, including William Allred and Alejandro Marquez, from KTC’s Poteau campus, were huddled around it.
“It’s pretty good,” Allred said of the campfire display.
Another participant said his current job is about to end, so he attended Wednesday’s Expo in search of future employment.
“I need to get ahead of the game and drop off some resumes,” he said.
He didn’t want to publicly identify himself, however, because he said there’s still a chance he may get to keep the job he currently holds.
Dr. Janet Wansick, the dean of Eastern Oklahoma State College’s McAlester Campus, stopped by the event.
“They’ve done a fantastic job,” she said of the Choctaw Nation’s Career Development Expo.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for people in our community to have everything in one place,” she said, referring to both the employment and higher education booths in place at the expo center.
The Career Development Expo focused on four areas: Health care, manufacturing, energy and transportation.
A few of the companies participating included Enogex, Tyson, Air Evac, Choctaw Casinos, Kelworth Trucking, and the state of Oklahoma.
Educational facilities participating included Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, Eastern Oklahoma State College, Oklahoma City University and Kiamichi Technology Center campuses from across southeastern Oklahoma.
Blake Tipton, a senior at Hartshorne High School, joined the many students attending the event. Frank Motes, also of Hartshorne, was helping him navigate the booths in search of future employment.
What employers were they checking with?
All of them, they said.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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