Source: Genie Lemieux
The Evanston Work Ethic Program took on a second cohort of students last month, expanding the program to include high school seniors as well as juniors.
Founded by local business owner Hecky Powell in 2016, the WE Program welcomed seven new juniors and five new seniors from Evanston Township High School on March 22. Powell said 31 students were interviewed for the second cohort.
The mentoring program at ETHS was launched with help from the Evanston Community Foundation and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce to teach students marketable skills and help them secure well-paying jobs.
WE Program executive director Nancy Baker said the program only included juniors in the past, but based on feedback from ETHS students they decided to expand to include seniors for a one-year program.
“We heard from so many students who were seniors that they really would appreciate the chance to have a year with us that we changed our mission a little bit,” Baker said, adding that the seniors in the one-year program receive a more “concentrated” experience. The new cohort includes five seniors, Baker said.
Baker said even though including high school seniors changes the original mission of the WE Program, which was intended to be a two-year process, the change actually fits with her intention to cultivate students’ passion for a trade.
She said some current ETHS students who either passed up the opportunity to work with the WE Program as juniors or never knew about the program will benefit from the change. She said ETHS’ large student body sometimes makes it difficult to get the word out about specific programs like WE.
Some students also might not feel the pressure to think about their future until senior year, Baker said, adding that letting seniors apply to the program gives them a second chance to unlock a “whole world of possibilities waiting for them.”
Cindy Franklin, a supervisor for a pharmacy technician training program and mentor for the WE Program, is currently mentoring ETHS senior Noor Al-Rubaye.
Franklin said she and Al-Rubaye have met regularly since Al-Rubaye was a junior to discuss her training, among other topics. Franklin said she is “in awe” of how far Al-Rubaye has come since they first met.
Franklin said mentoring Al-Rubaye has been and will continue to be an “incredibly rewarding” experience. She said because of this positive experience, she would be “more than happy” to mentor another student in the new cohort.
Moving forward, Powell said he hopes to continue to grow and expand the program. He said 100 percent of the program’s funding comes from donations from community organizations and individuals, and he intends to keep it that way.
“We have a lot of kids in the Evanston community that are not interested in going to college, but they’re interested in a trade,” Powell said. “I’d like to see all kids in this community really make it and stay in Evanston and give back. … We just want to continue growing the program and continue to get private funding for the program.”
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