MOUNT VERNON — Tracey Levine’s job as a freelance sports broadcast producer has given her access to Super Bowls, Olympics and U.S. Opens.
“I’ve traveled pretty much everywhere in the U.S. because of sports television,” she said. “I get to work with a lot of interesting, cool people.”
Levine spoke to Mount Vernon High School students Thursday as part of the school’s “Pizza with a Professional” program, which aims to give students a glimpse of what life can be like once they graduate.
“We’re really trying to think about pathways for students beyond saying college is the only option,” Principal Rod Merrell said.
The program is modeled after one at a school in Oregon, college and career specialist Paige Bird said. Once or twice a week, professionals in the community come to the school to talk about their job and how they got there, while the kids get to ask questions and get a free meal.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to start thinking about their career options,” Bird said.
More than a dozen speakers from a variety of fields — including banking, engineering, law enforcement and medical — have signed up to participate.
The goal, Bird said, is not only to bring in speakers in careers that would interest the students, but to showcase a variety of jobs that are important to the local economy.
She hopes to get about 200 kids — 10 percent of the school’s enrollment — to attend at least one of session.
“I hope they begin to think about their future and realize that our community is full of wonderful professionals that serve as mentors,” she said.
For Levine, whose two children graduated from Mount Vernon High School, participating in the series was a no-brainer.
“There’s nothing like real-world experience,” she said of students being able to hear about her job. “Maybe you might find something that pushes you more toward it, or steer you away.”
Senior Briseda Cardenas attended Levine’s session because she has an interest in video production and has taken a class about it at the high school.
“I always thought it would be cool to understand the background,” Cardenas, 17, said.
One of the interesting things Cardenas learned from Levine, she said, was how the sports broadcast field used to be male-dominated, but now it’s changing.
“That’s not a barrier anymore,” Levine told the students.
Cardenas said she thought the “Pizza with a Professional” program was helpful. She doesn’t know what she wants to do when she graduates, so she intends to attend more sessions, particularly one with an immigration lawyer.
“I like helping people, but I don’t know exactly what I want to do,” she said. “I feel like in every career choice, there’s a way you can help someone.”