Teens told to pursue ‘The Road Not Taken’

Tessa Carroll

Approximately 180 15-and 16-year old girls crowded an auditorium and chatted among themselves excitedly Friday. But they weren’t attending a concert featuring the latest boy band. These girls descended upon Kent State’s Trumbull campus for “The Road Not Taken.”

The program, held Friday in Trumbull’s Classroom/Administration Building, was “a high-math, high-tech, high-wage conference” for area young women. Girls from Trumbull County schools gathered for the conference, which encouraged young women to explore careers in male-dominated, non-traditional fields.

The conference takes its name from the Robert Frost poem of the same name, keynote speaker Dr. Lois Margaret Nora, president and dean of the Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine, told the crowd.

“This really drives home the idea of entering male-dominated fields,” he said.

As the keynote speaker, Nora kicked off the day-long program with her presentation of “The Road Not Taken.” She said there are six things she feels young women need to know when pursuing their chosen career paths. Her advice included “finding your passion,” “having a plan” and “finding a mentor.”

“Planning is the best way to have a full, integrated life and live actively and happily,” she said. “More women spend time addressing their weaknesses than building their strengths. That’s a huge problem.”

The crowd broke into smaller groups of 15-20 girls from different schools. The half-hour group sessions were run by local professionals from many diverse fields.

The 13 speakers represented non-traditional fields including medicine, engineering, architecture, forensics, finance, chemistry, pharmacy, computer technology, biotechnology, polymer science and accounting.

“This program exposes these students to careers they may not have previously considered,” said Christine Cooney, program committee member and the Kent State Trumbull Campus Cultural Diversity Council. “Because these speakers are out in the field and have experienced these careers first-hand, this program becomes more valuable. These women are telling these girls how it really is out in the work force.”

Each speaker brought her own knowledge about her chosen career to the table. Many of the speakers chose to use hands-on activities instead of lecturing the girls.

Tammy King, criminal justice department chair at Youngstown State University, had the girls in her forensics sessions fingerprint one another and analyze those prints with computer software.

Marcia Weidnecht, professor of polymer science at the University of Akron, taught the girls in her polymer group sessions how to make homemade silly putty.

“Our program not only talks to these girls about possible future careers,” Cooney said. “It also gives them a little fun, hands-on activity.”

At the end of the day, the girls filled out evaluation forms with opinions of the program and individual sessions. In two years, the girls will receive an evaluation form asking about their college and career plans.

“The Road Not Taken” is an annual program sponsored by the Career Development from the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, the Kent Tech Prep Consortium and the Kent State Trumbull Campus Cultural Diversity Council. Nora’s words of advice in her keynote address echoed the importance of such a conference in helping young women find the right path.

“Know the difference between excellence and perfection,” she told the audience in her closing remarks. “But also have a realistic view of excellence.”

Contact regional campuses reporter Tessa Carroll at [email protected].