SOVA Career ChoICE Youth Expo

At last year's SOVA Career Choice Youth Expo, students viewed specimens under a microscope with Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) Associate Samantha Smith-Herndon. IALR and 54 other employers are gearing up for this year's Expo to introduce students and the public to career paths and occupations available in Southern Virginia.

For the sixth year, organizers of the Sept. 25-26 SOVA Career ChoICE Youth Expo prepare to attract about 4,500 middle and high school students to introduce them to local careers and better equip them for work expectations. The community may preview the career exploration event at Expo in the Evening, a free Tuesday event full of activities, resources and prize drawings. Expo events will be held at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, located at 19783 U.S. Highway 29 South in Chatham.

“Every year, I am amazed at how our Southern Virginia employers, volunteers and school systems collaborate to produce a high-quality career exploration experience for our students, and this year is no different,” said Dr. Julie Brown of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). “All under one roof, students from 31 schools will be exposed to 78 hands-on activities led by 55 employers representing all 16 Virginia Department of Education career clusters. This is their chance to learn the businesses and job opportunities available throughout our region.”

The student Career Expo will expose seventh graders and high school students from Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Patrick and Pittsylvania to career opportunities within Southern Virginia.

Employers will lead students through hands-on activities to showcase the wide variety of careers so that students will have an option to stay in the region. Each student is provided a booklet with career cluster information, necessary skills and education, and potential salaries, allowing a more informed career decision. The event is an intentional effort to build a pipeline of students in strategic sectors aligned with economic development interests.

“I sincerely hope the community will join us for Expo in the Evening, so they can see first-hand all of the interactive activities, employers and career clusters students will experience during the student days,” said Brown. “This event is absolutely free, open to the public and includes the opportunity to win prize drawings. Plus, local colleges, schools and organizations will be on site to share helpful resources for attaining the education necessary for career choices.”

Expo in the Evening, held Tuesday from 4-7 p.m., will allow the community to experience the same hands-on career sector activities as the students. They may also interact with regional employers, learn about school divisions’ Career and Technical Education programs, and talk to area colleges about academic programs and financial aid.

There will be drawings for $50 Amazon gift cards from 6:15-6:45 p.m. Plus, the school with the highest percentage of faculty attending will receive catered refreshments at an upcoming teacher workday. Faculty should bring their school ID and sign in at the event.

Platinum sponsors of the event include Averett University, Goodyear, IALR, J.T. - Minnie Maude Charitable Trust, Microsoft, New College Institute, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, and Walbridge. Gold sponsors include Centra, Eastman, MedExpress, Piedmont Access to Health Services (PATHS) and Sovah Health.

For more information, visit or contact Brown at