East High Career Fair Presents Students with Opportunities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Business owner Jerome Justice handed out business cards and giveaways emblazoned with his company logo to students visiting his vendor table Wednesday morning during a career fair at East High School.

It was a different sales pitch for Justice, who owns DLR Villa, an athletic footwear company based in Liberty. He was hopeful the 12th grade students were buying what he was selling: an opportunity. 

“I hire a lot of students from the inner city to work at my store,” the Youngstown native said. “I want to provide a pathway to get to a career. A lot of kids look at these successful people on social media and they don’t understand the work and what it took to get there.”

More than a dozen businesses or organizations took part in the school’s first career fair, coordinated by English teacher Selina Cotton. 

“Many of these kids may not have the ability or access to transportation to apply for jobs at all of these different places, so an event like this can bring the businesses to the students,” Cotton said.

Stores like DLR Villa to those that sell hair products and accessories to military recruiters and nonprofits were represented. Cotton said students prepared for the fair by completing resumes, cover letters and practicing mock interviews. 

“I didn’t have a male role model growing up, so I think it’s important to have that support to learn responsibilities like being on time for work,” Justice said.

Cotton is the founder of the nonprofit Success Beyond the Desk, which provides programs like career fairs and other advocacy efforts throughout the Youngstown City School District. She said it’s an avenue to provide tools outside of the classroom due to funding cuts that have stripped away student culture so many programs in the school district.

“We’re trying to prepare students to be able to compete in a global society, however, we aren’t giving them the opportunity to be fully prepared,” she said.

Cotton calls herself a product of Youngstown, who earned her a baccalaureate and master’s degree and has been teaching in the district since 2010. She is passionate about her students and giving them the tools to succeed.

“We need community partners to rally with us, not against us.”

Some of those partners were business owners Cotton knows. Andre Stewart, who graduated from the school district,  owns Full Faith Movers, specializing in moving furniture. 

He spoke with numerous students, looking over resumes and talking about opportunities. The company has a contract with U-Haul in the Pittsburgh area and the company is run out of his home on Salt Springs Road. 

Stewart is a clinical manager for special needs children at George Jr. Republic in Grove City, but he is hopeful that he will be able to run the moving company full time in the near future.

East High senior Damico Jackson spent several minutes talking with the company. He is looking to get a job before he starts college next fall at Youngstown State University to study mechanical engineering. He said he is receiving some scholarships and planning to get a job to pay for any other college costs.

“Today was successful and I think helpful for many students,” Jackson said.

LeQuanna Jones said the event was great because she made connections with a hair accessory store. 

“I’m in cosmetology at the career center and this was helpful for me to meet store owners. I want to work in a boutique selling hair products one day,” the senior said.

Pictured: East High School students talk with a representative from Full Faith Movers, a local and long-distance furniture moving company from Youngstown.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.