HARLINGEN — “You want to try it on, buddy?” asked Robert Curry, a Harlingen police officer.
The young boy smiled and moved uncertainly toward him. Curry, a school resource officer, fitted a black bullet-proof vest on him. It was heavy on the boy’s shoulders, but he was all joy and excitement, as were about 360 children yesterday at the Travis Elementary College and Career Fair.
“The students are coming through the different stations,” said Principal Beulah Rangel. “They’re enjoying the conversations they’re having with their guest speakers about different career options. But we also have some universities here, so those are options as well.”
The children filled the gymnasium where 18 presenters — including Gentle Hands Barber Shop, Harlingen Fire Department, Our Lady of the Lake University — spoke with the children about their jobs. A girl with glasses jumped up and down excitedly. Two boys negotiated what table to go to, then one said, “This way” and they headed to Homeland Security Investigations.
Kids crowded around retired NFL player Leo Araguz, 49, to try on helmets and ask questions.
“Anybody that can dream can make whatever they want happen,” said Araguz, a 1989 graduate of Harlingen High School. Araguz, who was a punter for the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders, has plenty to share.
“I like the fact that I can share something that I did, that I dedicated my life to it and I can share that with the kids,” said Araguz, who now owns Araguz Construction.
“Hopefully, one of those kids can see that and see the fact that people from here in the Valley can also do it and reach their goals,” he said. “They can go back to the same fact that, keep dreaming and you’ll have the opportunity to do what you want to do.”
The kids seemed to be getting the message.
“Today there are Rodeo Dental, Border Patrol, there’s the police department, everything,” said Marie Ruelas, 9. “So what we do here is that we get to meet people and ask questions about what they do.”
She, like many of the older students, had a sheet of paper with questions.
“I’m looking for Border Patrol,” she said. “I put, ‘Where do you go for work?’ I have questions like ‘What’s it like being them and what they do.’”
Agent Daniel Martinez, U.S. Border Patrol, admired the honesty of the children who spoke to him.
“They’re really interested and very genuine about all the questions they are asking,” he said. “The first question I ask is, ‘What do you want to become when you grow up? What are your goals and aspirations?’”
Martinez, who is also a chaplain with the Border Patrol, seemed to enjoy his time with the kids.
“Right now we’re having fun out here with all the students asking so many questions about careers,” he said.
The kids indeed had some pretty pointed questions.
“My question was to the H-E-B bakery,” said Daniel Cedillo, a fourth grader. “I asked, did food go to waste, and he said, no, they give it to the homeless.”
Did he like that answer?
“Yes!” he said emphatically. “It’s cool that everyone can go for different things and ask them questions about stuff.”
Ever since Diego Nunez opened Gifted Hands Barber Shop he’s wanted to share his story of success.
“I enjoy talking to young kids and motivating them to not just choose a career but know the options that they have,” he said.