Hecky Powell’s foundation helps launch youth training program


Daily file photo by Drew Gerber

Hecky Powell launched the Evanston Work Ethic program through the Forrest E. Powell Foundation this school year. The program is hoping to help ETHS students who aren’t interested in a four-year college with a trade career.

Ben Winck, Assistant City Editor

The Forrest E. Powell Foundation — operated by the owner of Hecky’s Barbecue — is investing in helping high school students find career success through trade school.

“I’ve discovered that many kids aren’t at the top level with AP classes and not in trouble or at the lower level. They’re good kids but they don’t get much attention,” Hecky Powell said. “They come through school, and they don’t know what to do after, even though they definitely have the work ethic.”

The Evanston Work Ethic program began its pilot year this fall at Evanston Township High School with help the foundation and various Evanston youth advancement organizations. Powell’s foundation has served Evanston residents for about 22 years through scholarships and an award. The new program is meant to help high school students find success in a specific trade without needing to go to a four-year college, Powell said.

The program aims to take between 10 and 15 ETHS juniors this fall. Through partnerships with Youth & Opportunity United, Youth Jobs Center and Oakton Community College, the program will connect students who plan to go to trade school or work directly out of high school with individuals already in the field. The Forrest E. Powell Foundation was once limited to giving out scholarships twice a year, but the foundation will fund stipends and mentorship programs for students in the program, along with helping them find a summer job to bridge the gap between junior and senior year.

Although the Forrest E. Powell Foundation is the primary sponsor of the program, Youth Jobs Center will work closely with students and the foundation to find a fitting occupation. The co-operation between the two organizations will provide students with new possibilities to explore out of high school, YJC director of development and communications Lizzy Kreindler said.

“We look forward to a collaborative partnership and will work together to get young people connected to a positive first job experience and on the clear path they want,” Kreindler said.

The program is also meant to provide individual help to each student according to their interests. The key to growing the program is keeping it focused and individual, Evanston WE executive director Nancy Baker said.
“This first year is our pilot year, and in terms of where it would go from there, we see a lot of potential to help many students at ETHS and possibly beyond,” Baker said. “We want to make sure that every student involved would receive custom advice and attention.”

Juniors at ETHS can apply to be one of the first participants of the program, with a deadline of Oct. 14. The program is expected to grow over time and help change the stereotypes that surround the choice of attending a trade school or pursuing an associate’s degree, Baker said.

The program is meant to be seen as a community foundation with the potential to expand to other schools, she added.

“A really important thing to us is to not just focus on how we’re going to help these 10 individuals this year,” Baker said, “But the ambient effect of how many young, talented individuals we can influence by addressing the reality of how many post-high school opportunities really do exist.”

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