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Mentorship program gives kids a taste of potential careers
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High school students across the county are trying to decide what to do for the rest of their lives.

Under Hall County Schools' Honors Mentorship Program, they get the chance to pick a business and try it out.

"I decided to apply to the program to figure out what I want to do," said Tiffani Poole, a senior at Chestatee High School. "I don't want to start a degree in college and then find out I don't like it."

This is Poole's second year in the program. She studied business education last year and is considering teaching business at a high school, but she wants to try other areas of business this year. She's taking a look at risk management with Turner, Wood & Smith Insurance this fall.

"As a risk analyst, you investigate a company and determine if people should be insured," she said. "I wanted to try another side of business."

The mentorship group met at the Chateau Elan ropes course Friday to get to know students from other schools. The Rev. Tom Smiley of Lakewood Baptist Church encouraged them to take every advantage of the program.

"I understand you all are the brightest of the bright with special gifts and special skills and intellectual hopes and dreams," he said. "I encourage you to pursue them no matter what. If people tell you that you can't, don't believe them."

Smiley recounted his struggles entering college, assuring them anything is possible with drive and passion.

"I wasn't ready for college and hadn't prepared myself. When I applied, I got nothing but rejections," he said.

"Then I got a letter from Young Harris that said they would take a chance on me, but I wouldn't pass my first semester. I did, and then I passed the semester after that."

He said he still keeps the letter in his safety deposit box and reads it from time to time.

"Don't look at what you're thinking about doing as an end but a continuation. Learn new and different things, and just keep learning," he said, explaining why he decided to earn a private pilot's license and learn how to officiate sports games.

"I didn't want to get stale but keep growing," he said. "I'm 52, and I wanted to look back and say I made a difference. One day you'll be 52 also."

Hall County teachers Kathy Mellette and Jennifer Killingsworth coordinate the program and watch students take on new jobs year after year.

"It's amazing. They reach so far beyond what they think they can do," Killingsworth said. "They surprise themselves with what they can actually do and they bond with students outside of their school."

Working with a business in the community is the key factor, Mellette said.

"A doctor can show firsthand what a cancer cell is, and you can't duplicate that in the classroom. You probably can't in college either," she said. "They grow up in this program. We connect them with a business, and they're on their own."

For Buddy Foster, a junior at Flowery Branch High School, he started with the ideal job and then tried to figure out what internship and college major would help him get there.

"I like biomedical engineering, not for prosthetics, but to engineer new apparel for Nike," said Foster, who will work with ProCare Prosthetics in Buford. "And if that doesn't work out, I can also apply for med school and be a doctor."

 

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