ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- Select Mount Anthony Union High School students have begun exploring career opportunities and absorbing valuable skills through a new, year-long program known as the "Emerging Leaders" program.
Community College of Vermont Academic Coordinator Jeanne Jenkins said the program, which runs with grant support through the Vermont Department of Labor, is the product of ongoing collaboration between CCV, Mount Anthony Union High School, the Career Development Center, and the local business community.
"It's a way for kids to do some early exploration and start thinking about the connections between education and careers, what careers might interest them," Jenkins said.
According to MAU Community School Coordinator Amy Beth Kessinger, one of the four leaders of the program, Emerging Leaders is designed to raise post-secondary school aspirations and help students build essential life and work skills.
"Students will be able to discover and understand their personal attributes, including skills and values, explore career options and pathways, and develop strong verbal and written communication skills appropriate for professional settings," she said. "They will also have the opportunity to create an education and career action plan."
Jenkins noted that 25 MAU students have been chosen to participate.
"We have the most delightful tenth and eleventh-graders in the program," she said. "They are just so eager to learn. It's great to see."
According to Jenkins, most of the 25 students chosen to participate in the program are also enrolled in CCV's Intro to College Studies course, which is held every Tuesday between Oct. 1 and Dec. 10.
"This course is a free course that CCV runs to help students understand what its like to be in a college classroom," said Jenkins. "It helps answer the question, ‘Is college right for me?' helps students to think critically, and helps students realize the skills they'll need in order to be successful in college."
In addition to the free college course, students will also participate in college visits, resume writing workshops, weekend retreats, college fairs, and job interviewing workshops throughout the year.
Jenkins went on to explain that Emerging Leaders also serves to help students see the connection between continuing education and local career opportunities.
"We want all of our students to have wide-ranging experiences, we want them to pursue their education in whatever way that makes sense, but we also want them to know that there are jobs and careers with value right here in this community," she said. "We are really fortunate that there is such a wide range of opportunities in this community. I think many times people don't realize it, or they forget it."
Brooke Remington, MAU school to work director, and another faculty member who has played a hand in organizing the program, also recognized the importance of keeping graduates in their immediate community, and hopes that this program will encourage students to do so following graduation.
"Our economy only gets better with skilled workers," she said. "If students come back to Bennington after they go to school, if they come back to our county, it really helps to bring things back around and support what we have here."
Kessinger added that the program serves as a bridge between the community and the students.
"This program allows learning to expand outside of the classroom, helping pave the path toward college, while simultaneously allowing kids to explore many different career possibilities," she said. "We've been overwhelmed with the number of local business owners that have agreed to work with our students."
The program will culminate with a 40-hour job shadowing opportunity for students, which, Jenkins said, will prove to be even more beneficial after having gone through the explorative aspect of the program.
"By the time they get to May, they're going to have some idea of what exactly they want to do, what they want to pursue," she said. "It will be an informative decision and thus much more valuable." According to Jenkins, program leaders are hoping to increase the enrollment of the program by no more than 10 students come spring.
Students interested in participating in the Emerging Leaders program can contact Kessinger at 802-681-8830 for more information.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.