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JHS plans senior mentorship program

Jamestown High School juniors Jonas Flann, left, and Jon Listul, right, stand in the school commons area on Jan. 19, with JHS Principal Adam Gehlhar. The students are on a committee to develop a senior mentorship and career project. Tom LaVenture / The Sun

Jamestown High School seniors may soon be able to experience a job before pursuing it as a career.

A senior mentorship program will give students an out-of-school working experience in a field related to a desired profession, said JHS Principal Adam Gehlhar. Working for a semester in the profession will help students make a confident decision on whether to pursue job training, a two-year technical program, community college or fouryear university, he said.

“I am hoping our students will find more passion and more purpose for what they are going to pursue next,” Gehlhar said. “We want them to be choice ready when they graduate, and we also want them to be able to make that decision having reflected on some realworld experience.”

The students will use late afternoon school time to work at a job site in a program that is tailored to fit the needs of local industries, he said. The 60-hour work program is mentored over a semester along with attending a seminar class with a career counselor at JHS.

“This is real 21st century education,” Gehlhar said.

Gehlhar said the partnerships with business and industry are in the informal stages, but are underway.

The students will keep a journal of the work experience and give seminar reports so other students also get experience in the profession, he said. The semester will end with student presentations for the class and the mentors, he said.

Matching everyone who wants an experience with a mentoring opportunity is a challenge, Gehlhar said. As of now 149 seniors are expected to be enrolled in the 2017-18 school year with around 25 mentorship opportunities available.

An alternative experience is the “career invention project,” he said. Students will combine interests with academics into a project with an industry mentor to help gain skills in that field, he said.

“It’s more about exploring a career by doing a project rather than a placement,” Gehlhar said. “The mentor could be active or retired in that industry and would support the student to explore those projects.”

Michelle Solensky, a University of Jamestown biology professor, is on a committee to develop the career project. She said many freshmen students who choose biology as a major are thinking of becoming medical doctors, and too often they change their course of study to something more suited to their interests and talents.

Some students will continue in biology with a different occupation in mind, she said. More often the students will switch to another major entirely.

“If they make that switch more than a year into their college career, it often extends their time in college beyond four years,” Solensky said. “So, getting some real-world experience or project-based, in-depth exploration of potential careers may save students some time and stress beyond high school graduation.”

Two JHS students on the committee to create the mentorship and project programs said they are getting positive feedback from classmates.

“It just gives you a better view of what you want to do and what you don’t want to do,” said Jonas Flann, JHS junior.

The one-day field trips are nice but a mentoring experience is “real,” Flann said. A hands-on experience at a job site will make the student part of the daily grind, he said.

“A lot of times you don’t really get that opportunity in high school to figure out what it is specifically that you want to do,” said Jon Listul, a JHS junior.

The mentorship and career projects are “critically important” to the high school experience, said Robert Lech, Jamestown Public School District superintendent.

“Additionally, this takes that important step in connecting the high school with the needs of the workforce while allowing the student an opportunity for real-world career exploration,” Lech said.

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