STC Alliance discusses mentoring program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 1998

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / February 18, 1998

RESERVE – Several ideas were tossed around Tuesday morning at the school-to-career alliance meeting that when implemented will improve the attempt to let students see the relevance of school work to the careers that loom in their futures.

The school-to-career alliance, made up of business and community members, school administrators and teachers, discussed the possibilities of a mentoring program, speakers’ bureau and job site visits and tours.

Beverly Harris, school-to-career director, said the speakers’ bureau will be formed for middle schools because they don’t have career days like the high schools.

The speakers’ bureau will be a group of employees from different businesses and industries in St. John the BaptiSTC Aliancest Parish who will maketheir way from school to school, speaking to students about what their career entails.

This bureau will give middle school students the opportunity to get a head start on exploring different careers before they have to make a decision, Harris said.

Kelly Jenkins, a teacher at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science MagnetSchool, said speakers should only talk to the students who are interested in their field.

The middle school students will also get a career portfolio to keep notes in and keep handouts they receive so that they may look at it for future reference when deciding upon a career.

The mentoring program, like the speakers’ bureau, would bring local business and industry employees to the schools to take at-risk students under their wing and give them special attention.

One thing that everyone at the meeting agreed on is that students have to be willing to open up and discuss what their problems are and why they are not achieving their full potential in school to be a part of the mentoring program.

“When you select children for the mentoring program, you have to make sure they want to have someone to talk to,” C.J. Watkins, school boardmember, said. “Sometimes the programs aren’t successful because theychoose the wrong kids. It has to be a cooperative program.” School board member Leroy Mitchell said the formation of the program is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Mentoring is a life-longendeavor,” he said. “The child first has to have respect for the mentor. Youhave to win the child over.

“If you want the program to work, you have to attach kids to local folks who understand their problems.”Another point discussed was that the mentors can’t only focus on one aspect of the student.

“You can’t make a total separation between academics and the rest of this child’s life,” Mary Lynn Alltmont, manager of the LaPlace Area Office of the Louisiana Department of Labor, said.

Jenkins added that the program, although geared more for at-risk students, wouldn’t just be loaded with negativity.

“This program is going to be very successful,” Jenkins said. “But not everystudent is at-risk. There are some bright points. There are some greatstudents out there and a lot of positive things. They just need you to talkto them and tell them how your life runs.”Neil Bernard, pastor of New Wine Christian Fellowship and a former Shell employee and mentor, suggested that mentors be trained before shoving them into the school with the students.

Another idea that the alliance discussed was student tours of different businesses and industries to allow them the opportunity to get a sneak peek of what happens on the job.

One thing that was brought up was the possibility of taking only the students who are interested in a particular career to a business that offers a job in that field.

“We just need to make sure there is enough student interest to go,” Watkins said.

At that, Lily Galland, chairperson of the school-to-career alliance, suggested that smaller committees form to take the basic ideas and brainstorm some more to get more detailed ideas regarding the programs.

“We need to have something in writing,” Galland said. “You know howbusinesses are – they want the why’s and who’s. Also, to share this withthe parents and businesses we need to spell it out.”Five people volunteered to be on the mentoring and speakers’ bureau committee, with Julia Remondet, St. John Parish employee for theeconomic development department, and Bernard serving as co-chairs.

And five people volunteered to be on the job site tours committee, with Mitchell and Galland acting as co-chairs.

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