For the past five weeks, a group of students from the Panther Valley School District got a little taste of the working world thanks to Lehigh Carbon Community College's Carbon County campus. The institution hosted the children as part of its Career Club summertime recreational program.

"Our goal is to take these careers that may seem mundane and spark an interest for them at a young age," Kathy Taylor, the program's career consultant, said. "Once that's done, it's easy for that interest to carry through to adult life."

This most recent program is the last in a series of Career Clubs that first started back in January. Held as part of LCCC's SHINE program, each five-week session educated students from a different school in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties. Previous participants include L.B. Morris Elementary School, Lehighton Area Middle School, the Penn-Kidder Campus of the Jim Thorpe Area School District and Shenandoah Elementary School.

The 11 fifth and sixth graders enrolled in the program's June-July edition were separated into four career fields: health care, transportation and logistics, advanced manufacturing and business and finance. Supplementing activities designed to introduce the students to their respective career paths were informative field trips to local businesses including Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corporation and Blue Mountain Health System's Gnaden Huetten campus that afforded club members a chance to learn about potential careers from individuals who know them firsthand.

"These experiences tie into what the kids are learning," Taylor said. "Now, when they dream about their future, they'll have something specific to think about."

To coincide with the program's graduation ceremony July 22, the students in each group organized hands-on demonstrations of what they learned during their five-week education. For example, the business and finance group created its own miniature company, crafting handmade advertisements to promote their products and keeping tabs on inventory and sales.

"The career club gives students the opportunity to improve their overall academic performance," Taylor said. "It motivates them to study harder, which in turn helps them reach their highest potential."

Taylor said that math and science lessons were incorporated into the program, reinforcing information taught during the school year.

"They're all very sharp students," she said. "I think now they're energized to make a difference in the community, even at a young age."