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Spicing up career day: A new website connects professionals with South Carolina schools

June 5, 2017 GMT

Stephen Murray is “the kazoo guy.”

As the owner of Kazoobie Kazoos, a kazoo-manufacturing business in Beaufort, Murray is also — unsurprisingly — a very popular speaker on the school career-day circuit.

Bearing a kazoo for each child, he visits four to six schools every year and leads their classes in buzzy renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

Kids love it. Murray loves it, too. But one aspect of career day has always left Murray feeling a little uninspired: the lack of variety among the other speakers.

“There are a million and one ways to make a living and have a career in America these days,” he said. “I think oftentimes, especially for our youngest children, they’re typically only exposed to traditional jobs — police officer, firefighter, banker, lawyer, doctor.”

“For me, when I was growing up, a lot those traditional jobs didn’t excite me. I didn’t dream about being a lawyer. I didn’t dream about being a banker. But if someone were to come in and say you can make kazoos ... that starts to speak to my personal interests.”

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Developed by Leadership South Carolina, InspireACareer.com connects professionals with schools hosting career days.

To be fair, not everyone gets to be a kazoo maker when they grow up. Murray is lucky in this regard. But every student, he believes, should have the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of careers no matter where they go to school.

So Murray came up with Inspire A Career, a website that links professionals with schools hosting career days across the state. The idea launched as a project of Leadership South Carolina, a statewide leadership development program for people seeking careers in public service. Murray, who’s also a Beaufort city councilman, is member of Leadership South Carolina’s latest class.

“On our first day of Leadership South Carolina, Superintendent Molly Spearman came and spoke about some of the challenges public schoolchildren face, and one of them is the exposure to different careers, especially in rural South Carolina,” said Helen Munnerlyn, the program’s executive director. “She challenged the class to find a way to assist the children.”

Murray’s class at Leadership South Carolina raised thousands of dollars to bring his idea to life. The class hired Charleston-based Krit to develop a free, interactive website, like OkCupid, but for career day.

Professionals, known as “Inspirers,” can register on the site with their occupation, interests and the distance they’d be willing to travel. Educators, in turn, can search for “Inspirers” who meet whatever criteria they need for a particular event.

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Through Inspire A Career, Murray hopes educators and professionals will encourage children — particularly those in poor, rural school districts where opportunities are limited — to dream big.

“How do you aspire to something? How do you dream about something you don’t even know exists? It’s impossible,” Murray said. “It’s up to us to help provide those experiences and that inspiration to our children.”

In July, Leadership South Carolina will hand Inspire A Career over to S.C. Future Minds, a Charleston nonprofit that connects private sector resources to public schools. South Carolina Future Minds will maintain the website, while Leadership South Carolina continues to promote it.

Leadership South Carolina is working to get 500 professionals to register by the end of June.

“You don’t have to be a great public speaker or even like public speaking,” Murray said. “You just need to go and talk about what many of us know best and that’s our own jobs.”

Want to talk to South Carolina students about your job? Go to inspireacareer.com.