Cape Girardeau chamber, young professionals, students attend ‘connectCAPE’

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Young Professionals, and students at Southeast Missouri State University came together for the inaugural "connectCAPE" event on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

"connectCAPE" is geared toward helping better prepare students for the workforce while also allowing young professionals to continue improving their leadership skills.

Roundtable discussions with Southeast students were led by young professionals.

They discussed topics ranging from challenges finding employment after graduation to networking opportunities and tips for students.

"You have visions, and we genuinely want to see each one of you achieve your goals, " said Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success at Southeast Missouri State University, as she addressed students.

President and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce John Mehner said, "As a community, it is our job to not only provide an environment that is attractive to graduating Southeast students, but we must also ensure they know what we have to offer. I am confident that if we do a better job of sharing our story, more of these talented students will choose to build a life here."

Business Development Specialist Shad Burner with the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce said the University has more than 10,000 students and less than 20 percent will stay and live in the area after school.

Southeast sophomore Melanie Grasso is an environmental science major focusing on biology, she plans on joining the Peace Corps when she graduates. Grasso said even though she will be leaving, she hopes to come back to Cape Girardeau to go to grad school.

"I really do like it here, it's nice and I think I have some friends that are going to stay in the area too," Grasso said. "So, that would be nice to come back and live with them."

University Retention Specialist Kei-Shae McCrary said the school has helped students make career connections on an individual basis, but has never promoted a large program like the one with the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm an actual alumni of southeast, this is really exciting for me because they didn't have all of this when I was there and I mean I'm only 26 and it doesn't just mean a lot to me but the students that I serve," McCrary said.

Burner thinks southeast students have the skills they need to take the community to the next level.

"We know the type of talent and the type of skill set that's coming out of the University and we think that's critically important to the future of our economy," Burner said.

The University hopes it can eventually create a process that connects students directly with area businesses.

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