Willow Heatherly

Flocks of eager students and parents gather in the West Port High School gymnasium.

From as early as 2013, College of Central Florida has been hosting the Ocala Careers & Colleges Expo to help Marion County students discover a variety of different paths they can take to their future. Every year, schools and companies gather in the CF gymnasium to set up tables over which they talk with students and parents about the opportunities they have for them.

This year’s expo was held in West Port High School’s gymnasium. Randolph Bellamy, Assistant Director of Admissions & International Student Services at CF, explained that this change in location was due to CF’s gymnasium being flooded.

West Port’s gymnasium housed recruiters who promoted over 89 different universities, vocational schools, and workforce career opportunities. Among those included were: the Ocala Police Department, Marion County Fire Rescue, Marion County Board of Elections Supervisors, cosmetology schools, aviation academies, and film schools from as far as New York.

Kaitlyn Sanson, Enrollment Counselor for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, explains Abraham’s admissions process to Vanguard High School students.


Fortunately, the change of location had no effect on the event’s success in attracting massive crowds. Johnny Thompson, the Admissions & Student Relations Specialist at CF, oversaw the Ocala Careers & Colleges Expo.

“We just did an initial check a few minutes ago and we have over 1,100 people in there right now.” Thompson said.

By the end the night, there were only 2 brochures left at USF’s booth. Logan Feinberg, the Admissions Recruiter and Advisor for University of South Florida, also pointed out the three-inch stack of contact information forms he had brought for students interested in attending USF; every form had been filled out.

“The student turnout was equally great from last year to this year, so it’s really great to see so many students coming out.” Feinberg said.

Logan Feinberg, Admissions Recruiter/Advisor for University of South Florida, gives students a rundown of USF’s stellar programs.

The Ocala Careers & Colleges Expo’s history of drawing large numbers of attendees can mostly be attributed to the genuine interest that Marion County students have in directing their own futures. Some students travelled to the event with friends in hopes of finding universities that could suit whole group.

One such group of friends may have found that in Florida Atlantic University. Ernisha Tanelus, who is interested in pursuing a Criminal Justice degree, explained that she and her friends learned of the expo through flyers that Vanguard High School had distributed to students. They were glad to have attended together because they learned that FAU might have something to offer all of them.

Chrisann Martin, a prospective Psychology major, added that the event was quite the “eye opener.” Deja Williams agreed, stating that she had learned that the school she was initially interested in did not have much to offer regarding her intended major of Graphic Design. Rather, Florida Atlantic University’s graphic design program now looks much more enticing to her.

Some students were eager enough about their education to attend the expo on their own. One senior at West Port High School, Ashly Darmalingum, was so determined to get the most out of the college expo that she arrived thirty minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

“I needed a lot of information because I was indecisive about what college I wanted to go to,” said Darmalingum. “So being here helps me understand and choose what I want to do.”

She is considering attending either the College of Central Florida or Marion Technical College. She affirmed that this expo did help her to compare the colleges so that she can make the best decision.

Students take home baggies of career & college information materials at the end of another successful expo.

CF’s goal in hosting the annual event is not to focus solely on attracting their own future students, but to expose Marion County’s young adults to whichever colleges or vocational schools are best to fit their own needs and desires.

“We understand that every student here may not say ‘I want CF.’ They may choose the other schools,” said Thompson. “But we want CF to be a launching pad for them.”

Thus, CF continues its tradition of serving the community and putting each student’s individual goals at the foreground of its events. CF’s partnership with Marion County Public Schools for this event aided CF to gain a firsthand understanding of what kids need and want out of education and careers so that CF may more clearly see how it can benefit the students.

Story and Photos by: Willow Heatherly