GLADSTONE - The Gladstone High School Student/Local Business Partnership program has officially marked the end of its first year. The program allowed students to explore career options in depth through presentations and job shadowing.
"Our goal is to get the kids ready for post high school endeavors, whether it is to go right into skilled trade or go to college or whatever. Let's hear what the job entails; let's get them ready to go," said Kathy Becker, a retired Gladstone teacher who has been spearheading the program, at a reception recently celebrating the program's success.
Twenty-one local businesses presented to 256 students throughout the year. Many students attended only one or two of the seminars, which were held over student's lunch hours, but other students attended several.
The students who attended the seminars were mostly juniors and seniors. In the senior class 52 students, 48 percent of the class, attended the seminars and in the junior class 56 students, 50 percent of the class, attended the sessions. Sophomores also listened to the presentations, but only 20 students, 18 percent of the class, participated.
Of those students that attended the seminars, the students who took an interest in a particular field were given an opportunity to job shadow. The shadowing experiences varied from a single two hours session to weekly time with people in the field.
"It's been really good. I learned a lot from it. I learned how to do some of the stuff with graphic design - like the programs that they use and how to weave some of the vinyl stuff," said Dominique Krause, a Gladstone senior who has been job shadowing on a near-weekly basis with Peggy O'Connell Schumann at Positively! The Center for Success in Escanaba.
Krause intends to pursue a degree in graphic design when she starts at Northern Michigan University next fall - a choice she may not have made without the job shadowing program.
"I was like 'well, art wouldn't get me anywhere,' and then I was like, 'well, I'll go to this seminar thing,' and then next thing you know I got the job shadowing," said Krause.
For the businesses that participated in the program the benefits to the presentations and job shadowing experiences were obvious.
"I thought the program was really good," said Charlie Becker, resource supervisor for Plum Creek Timber Company. "One of the big challenges for young people is they have no idea what a job entails now as far as different careers."
While the students themselves were discovering career paths they might not have explored otherwise, the businesses themselves may have been surprised which students took an interest in certain careers.
"I believe all four of the students were junior girls," said Charlie Becker of the students that took to the woods with a Plum Creek forester. "A lot of times people have a tendency to think outdoor professions are geared towards guys, but that's not the case."
The program was funded by the Community Foundation of Delta County and by Plum Creek. Within 30 days of Monday night's reception, a report will need to be filed with the Community Foundation, but Gary LaPlant, the foundation's executive director, already sees the program as a success.
"We have an interest in seeing youth succeed and we know this shadow program has worked in other areas and we want to do everything we can to help our young people find careers that they enjoy and would be good at," said LaPlant. "This has worked really well, it's a success as far as we're concerned."
Kathy Becker hopes to bring the program back next year. In addition to many of the participants from this year's program, 15 new local businesses have already expressed interest in participating in the program.