WBL students honor mentors at reception

Article by DONNA HARRIS, Daily Tribune News

The work-based learning students at Cartersville High School took time this month to show their appreciation to the mentors who have supported and guided them all year.

Work-Based Learning Coordinator Shannon Boyer hosted the annual Work-Based Learning Employer and Mentor Reception May 7 in the CHS cafeteria to give the 22 seniors and 23 juniors in the program a chance to thank their mentors for guiding them toward their college and career path during the 2018-19 school year.

“Work-based learning and youth apprenticeship does not work without our mentors and employers that we have in the community,” Boyer said. “It is important to me that we thank everyone who has been involved with the success of our students.”

This year’s mentors have “really gone above and beyond for my students,” Boyer said.

“Even though employer documentation can be a bit daunting at times, I think that the relationship they build with WBL students is sometimes more substantial than the traditional employee,” she said. “In work-based learning, students have to interact with their mentors at least weekly to discuss their hours and have their timesheets verified. Furthermore, mentors evaluate students three times each semester. In my experience, the bond between the student and mentor becomes more substantial when they cultivate a safe system of feedback and discussion centered on the student’s performance.”

The mentors also have invested time in coaching the students, “whether it be professional or personal advice,” she said.

“Students have reported how valued they feel because one person in a supervisory role has taken an interest in them,” she said. “I feel that most professionals thrive with valuable feedback and coaching, but for students, they really respond to it. Mentors this year seem to understand this and are doing what it takes to develop the future workforce and make up for the employability/skills gaps we are seeing both state and nationwide. It is wonderful to note that in this community, leaders are willing to take on the challenge and help our students where it counts.”

The evening began with a mixer that allowed WBL students to show off their portfolios.

During the program, students introduced their mentors and presented them with thank you cards and certificates of appreciation.

“Additionally, behind the scenes, students nominated thier mentors for Mentor of the Year,” Boyer said.

At the end of the evening, Chick-fil-A Cherokee Place in Cartersville was named the Senior Mentor of the Year while Lara J Designs received the Junior Mentor of the Year award.

“We were honored and humbled to receive the award,” Chick-fil-A Operations Director Briana McEntyre said on behalf of restaurant operator Glenn Jordan. “To have so many of our employees in the program is amazing to see, and they are all great people.”

The restaurant, nominated by seniors Morgan North and Anna Hite and juniors Olivia Millsap and Kylee Gayton, is happy to help students work toward their career goals.

“We want to provide opportunities for the youth in our community to grow, learn things about themselves and learn skills that can benefit them in the future,” McEntyre said. “We also hope to help develop their strengths and help them get where they want to end up.”

She also said the WBL students are “hard workers and put 100% in when they come into work.”

“They have grown tremendously since starting at Chick-fil-A,” she said. “It truly is a pleasure and honor to know each one of them and work with them.”

Lara Jeanneret, owner and creative director of Lara J Designs, said she is “so honored” to have been chosen by the junior WBL students for the award.

“Ethan Jordan has been an amazing part of our team this past year, and we have been lucky to have him at Lara J Designs,” she said, noting he’s been hired as a permanent employee. “I was so humbled to learn that he submitted my name for consideration for this award, and his kind words at the podium brought me close to tears. He is an amazingly talented student and has a very bright future in graphic design ahead of him.”

Jeanneret, who’s been a WBL mentor for many years, said Jordan asked to start his internship last May so he could have more time to learn.

“I was surprised by his enthusiasm and so excited to meet a student that was so excited to learn as much as possible about graphic design,” she said. “I truly feel that if a person is given the opportunity to try the career they are interested in at an earlier age, it will benefit them in so many ways.”

Jordan has expanded his portfolio “tenfold over the past year” and will be able to enter college “with a portfolio and knowledge that many students graduating from college are not able to achieve,” Jeanneret said.

“He also has the experience of day-to-day work in a small graphic design business and will be able to move to any graphic design career he chooses with the confidence of someone who has been working in the field for a long time,” she said.

Two other awards were given out during the program — Senior and Junior WBL Student of the Year.

Senior J.P. Martin and junior Riley Collier, who have only been in the program a year, were chosen by their peers as the winners.

“These students were selected based on how they represented CHS in the community, at work and at school, according to their peers,” Boyer said.

Martin, 18, said he appreciates the students who voted for him.

“It feels great to know that my peers think of me like this,” he said.

Collier said he was “surprised” that he won the award.

“I did not expect to be nominated by my peers,” the 17-year-old said. “Ms. Boyer kept it a secret until the reception.”

Martin said he’s been mentored this year by Tony Martin of Allwood Cabinets & Furniture, where he runs the CNC machine that cuts out cabinet parts, installs cabinets, sweeps floors and “really just anything that I can do to help.”

“I really appreciate what he does for me,” the senior said. “He has taught me so much about the family business. He works very hard, and it shows.”

The younger Martin said he’s loved being in the program and was “happy to leave school to make money.”

“I have saved money for college, which will help in the long run,” he said.

Collier said it’s been a pleasure to work with and learn from his mentor, Andy Womack at Varsity Car Wash, where he’s responsible for training and managing employees, operating the car wash equipment and maintaining the car wash daily.

“He is a relaxed boss who knows a lot about how to run a business,” he said.

The junior said the WBL program has been “helpful to me as an employee and has allowed me to gain experience and time on the job site.”

“I enjoy leaving early and having flexible hours,” he said. “The nice thing about WBL is that I don’t have to work every day. So when I don’t work, I can concentrate on my homework.”

Boyer said her students this year are a “great, diverse group” who have learned time-management skills.

“What is interesting about WBL is that it is a fit for many types of learners with varying dreams for the future,” she said. “I have future military personnel, park rangers, plastic surgeons, linemen, teachers, lawyers, sports players and business owners. The GPA average is a 3.5 among students, but it ranges from a 2.6 to over a 4.0.”

But what has impressed her the most this year was “how they are achieving work-school-life balance at 16- to 19-years-old,” she said.

“I see people across all ages struggle with this, but my students this year have learned quickly the value of keeping an agenda or calendar and how important communication is between them and their employers,” she said.