Business partnerships give Elizabethton students a taste of what job will really be like

Several businesses joined the new career partnership opportunity network

ELIZABETHTON — It’s not uncommon for students to graduate college, begin a job in their chosen field, and realize it’s not at all what they expected.

To help students get familiar with real job opportunities and what a day of work will be like in various fields, Elizabethton High School has launched a new partnership with local businesses called Career POP (Possibility — Opportunity — Partnership).

More than a dozen businesses attended the recent kickoff at the school to introduce themselves and the program to students. In a schoolwide assembly, students heard from business professionals and human resources managers in fields like computer science, healthcare, physical therapy, law, event planning, administration, construction and more.

Career POP is the brainchild of Karen Ritchie, director of Success Dynamics. She has an extensive professional network and a career that she loves, but she had to adjust her goals and expectations throughout her career to achieve that. She shared her story with students.

Director of Elizabethton Schools Corey Gardenhour said this will be a benefit to students as well as local businesses. “We want our students to envision themselves as professionals in the workforce so they can have those conversations about what classes they need, how to dress for an interview, and what to expect in the field,” he said. “It will also benefit our local businesses in identifying interns, cultivating relationships, and helping students prepare to work with them in careers they are passionate about.”

POP has two essential components: business professionals visiting the school and students visiting workplaces. During school visits, professionals will speak with groups of students to share insights about career opportunities. This will be an informal opportunity for students to dialogue about possibilities with these companies in specific fields. The workplace visits will allow students to tour facilities and get a firsthand understanding of day-to-day responsibilities in their field of choice.

Ritchie shared a personal story with students about how visiting a job site saved her years of study and thousands of dollars because she realized her dream of that job and the reality of the day-to-day work were two very different things. “What I would say is to follow your dreams, but also find your reality,” she said. “You’re going to spend the biggest part of your life doing something, so do something you enjoy.”

Participating businesses include Success Dynamics, General Shale, First Tennessee Bank, Unbound Digital Computer Experts, Ensley-Baker & Shade Law Firm, Freedom Hall Civic Center, Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, Milligan College, Christian Care Centers, HEXPol Manufacturing and Borla Performance.

If other businesses are interested in getting involved with Career POP, they can contact Karen Ritchie at To partner with Elizabethton High School on this or other projects, contact Maggie Donnellan at