GREENFIELD — Ethan Patrick knows he wants to be a pastor someday.
But he’s not sure where he’d like to study theology in order to follow that calling. The Mt. Vernon High School junior discovered a number of colleges and universities that offer degrees in the field Tuesday at the third annual education and career expo.
More than 50 tables emblazoned with the emblems of colleges, universities and more crowded the gym at Hancock Wellness Center on Tuesday, offering informational pamphlets, freebies and applications to those seeking higher education. The expo, hosted by Leaders in Navigating Knowledge, connects high school students and adults with representatives from area institutions and provides educational workshops on topics ranging from how to fill out scholarship applications to how to make the most out of the college fair.
Leaders in Navigating Knowledge, or LINK, is a nonprofit organization that works to provide support to young adults preparing for education beyond high school; in 2013, board members decided organizing a college and career expo could help fulfill that mission.
Story continues below gallery
Patrick attended Tuesday’s expo with his mother, Kim Patrick of Greenfield, who hoped to help her son narrow his college search. She enjoyed the convenience of having nearly 60 colleges, universities and other organizations in one place.
“It’s easier to have them come to you,” she said.
Several local organizations come together each year to make the expo a success: Hancock Wellness Center officials provide a large space for the fair and reserve classrooms for the workshops; the Hancock County Community Foundation teaches some of the workshops, and about 60 volunteers give their time to help the fair run smoothly, officials said.
Delaina Boyd, a member of the LINK board of directors, felt the potential in the air at Tuesday’s event.
“All these schools in one place is great to see,” she said. “These students may decide their futures tonight.”
More than 60 students had signed in about halfway through the event. LINK executive director Brenda Wolski said the past events had attracted about 200 people, but she thought Tuesday’s expo was well-attended.
LINK is able to bring dozens of colleges and universities to the Indiana Association for College Admission Counseling, an organization devoted to providing equal access to postsecondary education, Wolski said.
It’s never too early to begin learning what educational opportunities are available, she said, noting several freshmen and sophomores attended the expo.
Velma Wade, the lead associate director of admissions for Ivy Tech, barely had any voice left near the end of the event.
She enjoyed speaking with students from Hancock County and surrounding counties about Ivy Tech’s various campuses and felt proud her table was the first to draw a student to it, she said.
While the event offered the opportunity to speak with representatives from large and well-known colleges in the Hoosier state like Ball State, Purdue, Indiana and Butler universities, the fair also showcased alternate paths to education like Job Corps, a nonprofit organization that offers free career training in fields like construction and culinary arts to people age 16 to 24.
The programs offered through Job Corps can be especially helpful for nontraditional students, said Heather Hoagland, an admissions counselor for Job Corps.
“We’re helping people who didn’t make it to college and need a step to get there,” Hoagland said. “A lot of people have to work while they go to school, and we can help them find a steady job.”
Having so many educational representatives in one place gave prospective students plenty to think about, said Donna Warfel of Greenfield, mother of Hannah Warfel.
The Mt. Vernon High School junior, 16, hasn’t quite decided where she wants to attend college, or even what she’d like to study.
Looking around the expo, she took stock of the plethora of options awaiting her.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming,” she said. “It’s not what you would expect.”
The expo provided her with a wealth of information, but speaking with college representatives made her realize her shortlist wasn’t quite so short, she said.
She liked what many of the college officials had to say about their programs and went home with a bag full of informational pamphlets to study later.
Watching students make their way among the booths, Wolski and LINK board members hoped their visit Tuesday would spur conversations about their options for further education.