Dec. 21, 2016 04:45 PM

In January, high school students from across Acadiana will explore different career paths, visit with local companies and realize the importance of a good education at the 2017 Career Connections.

Now in its 18th year, Career Connections invites approximately 4,000 students–including public, private and homeschooled students–from Lafayette, Iberia, St. Martin, and Vermilion parishes to discover a multitude of careers that are available to them.

“It’s an event for 10th Grade students that allows them to explore a wide variety of careers from professional to technical that they might be interested in,” says Debbie Burkheiser, chairperson for the event. “It gives them a way to see how what they’re learning in school can apply in real life.”

Past years of the expo have featured more than 90 career booths for students to explore. Some of the booths include both professional and technical careers in the areas of engineering and technology, business and finance, health and human services, and arts and humanities.

“Our number one goal is to get as many different kinds of businesses in there so that the kids can have a lot of different options,” says Burkheiser. “So we’re always searching for a wide variety of businesses to highlight a wide variety of careers.”

And once students have had a chance to explore their various career options, they can then visit another section of the Cajundome Convention Center called the Reality Store, which is being coordinated for the expo by the United Way, that allows students to “shop” for a month’s worth of living expenses to better prepare them for life after they begin their career paths.

About 200 community volunteers come in and work with the students to help them figure out how to best manage their financial resources and prepare them for their eventual home life with categories including housing, transportation, leisure and entertainment, family life, and the money tree.

“It gives them a real good reality of what it costs to live,” says Burkheiser. “So, those two elements combined is a powerful learning experience for them.

Businesses are needed to participate in this event in all career fields. In past years, students have specifically asked for more companies in careers such as dentists, plumbers, physicians, veterinarians, sociologists, psychologists and automotive technicians.

Sponsors, which include IND Media, are also needed to help cover event expenses and assist governmental and nonprofit agencies with booth fees.

Surveys from past years have found that students have a better understanding of their likely career paths, and students who participated in the event were more likely to graduate from high school.

The 2017 Career Connections expo will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Cajundome Convention Center. Donations to the event are welcome. For more information on Career Connections including how interested businesses and volunteers can take part, visit or email

Cajundome & Convention Center
444 Cajundome Blvd., Lafayette,
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