Mentoring program with local businesses welcomes first class


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Business owner Hecky Powell started The Evanston Work Ethic program through the Forrest E. Powell Foundation. 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.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

A mentoring program for high school juniors matched its first class of eight participants with professional mentors last week.

Business owner Hecky Powell started The Evanston Work Ethic program through the Forrest E. Powell Foundation. The program at Evanston Township High School was launched with help from the Evanston Community Foundation and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Powell, who is running the program with executive director Nancy Baker, said he started the program to help students who may not know a proper career path.

“Not every kid is made to go to college nor is every kid made to go to trade school,” he said. “One of the things that is pushed, especially at ETHS, is college and college prep schools, but we have kids that aren’t interested in going to college, but want a career or a trade.”

The eight ETHS juniors in the first class of mentees were chosen out 31 total applicants, Powell said. The program directors tried to match students with professionals in industries the teens had interest in, he said.

Eve Smith, a mentee and junior at ETHS, said she believed the program would help her start out her career in the culinary industry without needing to go to college.

“The program is really about being successful, and they’re saying it’s OK to step out of the norm and go your own route to find success,” Smith said. “It’s opening a door for kids and showing them that the four-year college route is not the only option.”

She was matched with a mentor who works at Hearth Restaurant at the Homestead Hotel, and said she was looking forward to using the program to help guide her to her career goal as a personal chef.

Mentor Jason Saini, Owner of Greenwood Motorsports and Wagons, which specializes in repair, sales and modification of cars, said he became involved with the program after hearing about it through a friend.

Saini said his goal was to expose his mentee to as many different facets of the industry as possible and open doors to them in the industry.

“There is a myriad of different ways that you can get involved that aren’t the conventional path,” Saini said. “I’m just excited to show somebody who is already enthusiastic about automobiles what those opportunities are.”

Saini said that for some students, an apprentice-like training experience would be more beneficial than a regular college path, and the program was “creative and interesting.”

“There is only one path that people feel is the way to get ahead and to have a career,” he said, referencing college. “There are so many skills out there that you can mentor someone (in) … and they can learn a skill and start earning a wage instead of accruing a debt.”

Powell said the onus would fall on the students to succeed in the program.

“These kids have to meet us halfway,” Powell said. “We’re not trying to force anything on any of these kids, but they have to demonstrate that they will meet us halfway. ”

Kristina Karisch contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @noracshelly