Michigan club gives students a chance to explore their dream jobs
High school senior Teri LaForest (right) meets with local TV meteorologist Cindi Clawson as part of a vocational service project conducted by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA. Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor
A vocational service program conducted by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph & Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, is helping junior and senior high school students develop careers by connecting them with mentors who are leaders in industry.
Participants are selected by their schools and given the opportunity to explore their professional interests with behind-the-scenes visits to area businesses. They also meet one-on-one with mentors, who share their experiences and advise the students on how best to pursue their dream careers.
Since the club launched the mentoring program in 2008, Rotarians have put more than 300 students in touch with professionals including lawyers, doctors, a Fortune 500 CEO, broadcast journalists, police officers, and a professional football player. Two Rotarians accompany each student who meets with a professional. The students are then required to report on their experiences at a meeting of the Rotary club.
“This program leverages Rotary’s amazing network of professionals to help young people connect with their career interests,” says Jackie Huie, program chair and president of the St. Joseph & Benton Harbor club. “We have not had a vocation that we couldn’t find for a student.”
The experience gives teenagers a chance either to reinforce their career choices or to rethink them, says Huie.
Teri LaForest, a senior and a 2012 program participant, wanted to become a meteorologist. The club organized a meeting with a meteorologist at the local TV station. After the visit, LaForest concluded that that job might not be for her but that she still had a passion for environmental science.
Visit sheds light on career path
“It was really neat to be able to see the TV studio, an opportunity I would not have had without Rotary,” says LaForest. “Visiting the station actually made choosing a career easier, but tougher at the same time. I realized that I’m not very interested in the broadcast side of meteorology. The scientific side, however, I found very interesting. The experience got me thinking about possibly going into a field that combines engineering and environmental science.”
David Reimers, a second-year student at Michigan State University, met with Whirlpool Corporation CEO Jeff Fettig when he was a senior in high school. Reimers says that talking with Fettig confirmed his career choice, and he points to Whirlpool as the company he’d like to work for.
“I know for sure that business is the right field for me,” says Reimers. “In high school I was a bit naive thinking about the difficulty of actually becoming a CEO and the stress involved with the job. In college I have really tried to focus on the advice Mr. Fettig gave me, which was not to worry about your next job, just work as hard as you can at the job you have and the rest will take care of itself. If I don’t quite make it to the top I will be all right with that, as long as I have worked my hardest to get there. I now know that the only way to the top is from the bottom, and there are no shortcuts.”
Huie says the program’s success inspired the formation of the Interact Club of Saint Joseph - Benton Harbor in February. After just two weeks, the club membership grew to 60 students.
Huie says clubs from Scotland, New Zealand, India, Peru, and Japan have inquired about starting similar programs since she shared details about it with Rotarians at the 2012 RI Convention in Bangkok.
“This is a proven, successful mentoring initiative that directly links youth and communities with Rotary,” says Huie. “It’s attracting youth to Rotary and is a lasting catalyst for club revitalization, community relevance, and global membership growth.”