For more than 10 years, The Boys & Girls Club of Mercer County (B&GCM) has hosted a college and career fair to provide local high school students with a wide-range of options for post-high school success. Last year was the first year this outreach event was canceled. Although distant this year with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, B&GCM is committed to bringing back those opportunities to the community’s youth.

This year, students will have the chance to meet virtually with representatives of over 40 colleges, technical schools and businesses to discuss options for higher education, post-secondary training, summer, part-time and full-time jobs and careers. Students will learn about programs and scholarships, discuss with representatives about financial aid, admissions requirements, student life, majors and areas of study, career support and more. The event will be held Friday, March 25 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“It’s a tradition,” said Mark Brugger, Marketing Director for B&GCM. “So when it was cancelled last March, it was very disappointing.”

Typically, an overwhelming amount of dedicated support systems in the local community attend the annual fair to encourage young adults looking to move beyond high school. According to Brugger, the event would bring hundreds of eager students. So when the event was suddenly canceled, many missed out.

However, this year, B&GCM is making up for the lost time with a reinvented version of the upcoming fair. The event’s participants at the virtual event will be utilizing B&GCM’s own Whova platform to meet using live stream, audio/video and downloaded materials and contact information. Whova is both mobile and desktop-friendly.

“I think the virtual event allows people to really reach out and make contact,” said Brugger. “All of the contact information of the recruiters and the people who are participating will be in there and [students] will have access to it for six months. You don’t always get that if you have to go to all the different tables… So there’s some advantages to doing that.”

In addition to the easily accessible information for the attendees to look back on months after the fair, B&GCM is also hoping this year’s virtual event expands their outreach to students in farther districts.

“Normally, our membership is the Greater Trenton Area that comes into our buildings,” said Reginald “Reggie” Coleman, Executive Vice President of Operations of B&GCM. “Now, we can have outreach to teens that, maybe, live outside of here.”

The Whova platform will allow unlimited participants to attend. Unlike the in-person event, where there is a space capacity limit, the Whova app allows for multiple students to visit each organization’s “table” at a time.

All participants are required to register (for free) with Whova. Attendees can either download the app on their mobile device or visit the website to use the program on the web-based platform. “For teens who have technology challenges, they would be welcome to come into our building and get on one of our laptops to participate,” said Coleman.

Through the Whova app, attendants can pop in and out of sessions throughout the two hour event. There will be different tracks for college paths and career paths that teens can explore. Each “table” has the capability to admit students into a live session via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or a virtual chat. The opportunities are abundant.

“[Participants] will see an agenda, which has everything between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and all the sessions are there,” said Brugger. “Under the sessions, they’ll have the names of the companies, the colleges and the job opportunities.”

With this year’s virtual shift, B&GCM are hoping to bring in the same, if not, more attendees to the fair. Although it differs from the traditional in-person experience the community is used to, B&GCM hope their supporters embrace the change and possibly consider keeping an element of the virtual fair in the future.

“As much as I love in person, I think that both [in-person and virtual] is sort of here to stay,” said Brugger. “I’m looking forward to, eventually, next year, go in-person and probably always have a virtual aspect.”

To learn more or to register for this year’s College and Career Fair, click HERE. Questions about the fair, contact Teen Director Ajeane at aknibye@bgcmercer.org. For Technical support, email collegecareerfair@bgcmercer.org.