Potted herbs, a shiny table setting and artistically shaped dough drew Gabby Barraza’s attention to the Santa Rosa Junior College culinary arts booth.

Gabby, an 11-year-old student at Brook Hill Elementary School in Santa Rosa, enjoys cooking, so perhaps a career as a chef is in the cards. She was bound to discover more about the profession Thursday during Santa Rosa City Schools’ inaugural College and Career Day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

“What do you like most about your job?” she asked chef instructor Shelly Kaldunski, outfitted in her white chef’s coat.

“Eating,” Kaldunski said. “I really love eating. I get paid to eat.”

Several thousand Santa Rosa students, mostly high schoolers and middle schoolers but some as young as fifth grade, got to learn about life after school at the district’s College and Career Day.

Local businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations and colleges from all over the state participated, offering a world of options for kids to consider.

Students also were able to participate in mock job interviews, presentations and other college- and career-related activities.

The first-time event emerged from a community desire to turn out children prepared for every sort of career— from white-collar tech or medical professions to service careers and the military.

“This is an attempt to show our students and families all the possibilities that exist,” district Superintendent Socorro Shiels said. “We think this will broaden the discussion for students.

“How do you know what you want to do?” she said. “You know what your mom does or your dad does, but how do you know what you want to do?”

Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa came equipped with microscopes — and information about jobs from receptionists to engineers and scientists.

Fresno State University and Chico State were there, as was Berklee College of Music.

Robyn Hettrich and Randy Ferino of Exchange Bank sold kids on how much fun it is to work at a financial institution, especially a local one that is so involved in the community.

“What do you like to do?” Hettrich asked the kids. “Do you like to work with people? A lot of what we do is working with people. Do you like helping people? We help people buy homes.”

Math, tech, mobile technology — all are potential career paths that might lead to Exchange Bank, she said.

Thirteen-year-old Cook Middle School student Carlos Tavira said he might like working at a bank. Why?

“Money,” he said.

“You could make yourself money,” Hettrich told him. “You could make other people money.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.