Students Get the Floor with Brain Gain

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Giving voice to the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs is the first step in devising solutions to keep that generation living and working in the five-county region.

At the start of the year, The Business Journal Brain Gain editorial program began a series of student panel discussions moderated by Jeremy Lydic, content manager. Starting with six panels of middle school students, and continuing with area high schools then college students, the goal is to hear directly from the future workforce. What are their interests, what inspires them and what, if anything, will convince them to stay here?

Some of the stated aspirations are to be expected such as doctors and lawyers, while others – particularly different disciplines of engineering – have been inspired by new experiences offered through STEM curricula, the students say. Still, all but a few of the students participating in the panels say they are college bound, with only a small number preparing for trades work.

The Business Journal is publishing the videos of the panel discussions on our website, Panel coverage can be found under the News section.

Viewers will find long-form videos of the discussions, starting with panels at East Palestine Middle School, Springfield Intermediate School, Campbell Memorial High School and the Northeast Ohio Impact Academy, Brookfield Middle School and Sharpsville Area Middle School in Pennsylvania. Other videos still to be posted include Case Avenue Elementary in Sharon, Pa., as well as high school students from Salem and Lisbon.

Each panel of students – ranging from as few as four to as many as 20 – offered honest, unfiltered perspectives on what they enjoy about their education and what they wish they were learning, what their dream jobs are and how they plan to get there, and what they like about their communities as well as what is disappointing.

“The discussions took on a life of their own. I was struck by some of the ideas that flowed organically from the conversations,” Lydic says.

Toward the end of each conversation, Lydic challenged panelists to tell him what he wasn’t asking that they think is important. Andrew Drummond, a sixth grader at Brookfield, suggested asking how students felt their future jobs would benefit the community.

“That’s a good one,” Lydic replied, then posed the question back to Drummond, who said he wants to be a game warden to preserve the environment and nature for the next generation.

Amaya Abeid, Springfield sixth grade, said she would like to stay in the community and share her experience with dance.

“I like our community,” Abeid said. “Where I go to dance, I could graduate and then I could come back to be a dance teacher or something like that.”

Understandably, some of the students had lofty ambitions but were short on the details of what inspired those dreams and how they would achieve them.

Others, however, seemed to have their future well thought out. Each panel had students interested in some form of engineering, Lydic says.

Lydic is conducting more panel discussions with high school students, followed by panels with college students and young professionals, as well as educators. The discussions will culminate with a public event in May, where some of the panelists will be invited back to participate in wide-ranging discussions.