“My heart was full,” says Raevyn Ferguson of her first What’s Next College and Career Fair. The 2023 graduate of Washington University became Little Bit’s College and Career Readiness (C&CR) Program Coordinator this summer and since the start of the school year has been on an “exciting adventure,” she says. “William (Hardrick, Little Bit Senior Manager of C&CR) and I have been constantly on the go, but it’s been amazing and means so much to me.”
At the What’s Next Fair in November, Ferguson witnessed deep connections between students and vendors and even the granting of three college scholarships on the spot. “The students brought their transcripts and the schools approved their admissions and a scholarship right there. It was thrilling,” she says. Sponsored by Citi, the fair was Little Bit’s second in which schools from across the metro area were invited to a two-day event at Harris-Stowe State University and St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley. Ferguson says students from 18 different high schools showed up to meet with representatives from over 50 companies, organizations, and educational institutions. Little Bit arranged for transportation and organized a pre-fair panel discussion to help students better understand what to expect and how to take advantage of their time with the vendors.
“I had a lot of great discussions with students on the areas they were excited about and how to follow up,” says Ferguson. “One student told me that before coming to the fair he didn’t know what he wanted to do in the future, but after meeting with reps from GDIT, he couldn’t wait to start learning everything he could about engineering. That’s what it’s about.”
Growing up in St. Louis, Ferguson says she knows there are great career opportunities here and she was blessed that her parents were intentional in helping her find her way. “There are so many other kids who, by middle and high school, are taking on adult responsibilities and becoming disillusioned. They will either lock in or tap out. We want them to know that they actually have control over their future.”
Helping to empower them, Ferguson says, involves exposing them to the opportunities, but also seeing people that look like them succeeding in those professions. This month, Little Bit launched a series of lunch-and-learns for high school students in partnership with Boeing. The events, which are part of a year-long STEM grant from Boeing, allow students to converse with employees representing a variety of roles in the company about their daily responsibilities, the path they took to their career, and minority representation in the aerospace field. “When they see people of color leading, contributing, doing what they love, they know it’s possible for them,” she says.
The lunch-and-learns are the latest addition to C&CR programming that also includes a mentoring program, monthly virtual transferable skills seminars (available to anyone on YouTube), field trips to local companies (including Boeing in the spring), and various presentations to students – “as many as our two-person team can handle!” says Ferguson. Recently, she joined three other recent college graduates in speaking to students at Meadows Elementary School on the importance of setting goals, what it takes to graduate high school, and what life is like as a college student. “I know college won’t be for all of them, but it’s never too early to make a plan.”
Watch Show Me St. Louis segment on the What’s Next Fair here.