ABILENE — Monday at the Abilene Convention Center, more than 1,200 8th-graders from all four Abilene ISD middle schools were introduced to the next chapter of their educational careers as the district hosted its first “Hello, High School” event.

Partnering with more than 30 local businesses, several local and regional universities and using counselors and students from Abilene and Cooper high schools, the 8th-grade students were exposed to Career and Technical Education programs the district offers. They were also able to hear from local business leaders in those fields, and they met with counselors from each high school to start thinking about their freshman-year schedules.

Along with those opportunities, the students were face-to-face with some high school students who were on hand to offer some advice on how to handle the transition to high school.

The event was the brainchild of Dr. Ketta Garduno, the AISD’s Executive Director of Career and Technical Education, who spent months putting the program together, organizing with the help of her staff, and getting buses, lunch, presentations and other details put together for the event.

“Our eighth graders are about to take a big step,” Garduno said. “They’re going to have several new opportunities in front of them, and we wanted to give them a chance to see and hear about many of them in one spot. Our goal was to give them a chance to seek out those different opportunities and see what might interest them as they think about their lives post-high school.”

Students were able to hear from local professionals in sessions about accounting and financial services, animal sciences, applied agricultural engineering, automotive repair, business management, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, cybersecurity, digital communications, early learning, electrical trades, emergency services (Abilene Fire Department), engineering, family and community services, graphic design and multimedia arts, healthcare, information technology support and services, law enforcement, programming and software development, teaching and training, and welding.

The businesses that co-presented sessions along with AISD personnel included the Abilene Fire Department, Abilene Police Department, Abilene ISD, Abilene Youth Sports Authority, ADM Animal Nutrition, Arrow Ford, Condley and Company, Datroo Technologies, Hartmann’s Inc., Hendrick Medical Center, Jon B. Marie Salon, IntelliHome Solutions, The Flipping Egg, KTAB-TV, Rentech Boiler Services, and Zachry Associate Inc.

The post-secondary institutions that participated in the event were Angelo State, Cisco College, Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry University, Texas State Technical College, and the Texas Tech University Healthy Sciences Center.