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Real world experience: Mentorship program gives students insight into careers
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Chestatee High junior Samantha Fons makes her presentation to Dillon Brewster and Macey Fons during the Hall County Mentorship Program Tuesday evening at The Oaks at the Lanier Charter Career Academy. Almost 60 Hall County high school students have spent the last school year with mentors as part of the program.

Taylor Jarrard, a Chestatee High School senior, has known she wants to be a midwife since she watched her close friend give birth at age 16.

Before that moment, Jarrard said she thought she wanted to follow in the footsteps of most of her family members and become a teacher.

But now, Jarrard said she sees how closely related the two fields are and how critical it is to educate people about health.

For a few hours each week, Jarrard had the opportunity to visit her mentor, Dr. Brett Barger, an obstetrician-gynecologist at The Longstreet Clinic.

During her visits, Jarrard was able to gain firsthand experience and make valuable connections in the field she intends to join.

“I got to interact with the doctors and nurses so I learned what I can do, and that makes me more comfortable knowing I’ve done this before and can do it again,” Jarrard said. “It’s nice knowing I have those connections I can call on, too.”

Almost 60 Hall County high school students have spent the last school year with mentors as part of the Hall County Mentorship Program.

The students are all high academic achievers and have a strong interest in a certain career path.

Based on their interests, the students are able to earn class credit and spend a few hours each week working alongside a mentor to see if the path they’ve chosen is one they’re actually prepared for.

The students gave high-tech presentations about their experiences in the program to their friends, families, teachers and mentors Tuesday night at Lanier Charter Career Academy.

Many of the students used traditional tabletop displays, as well as PowerPoint presentations, blogs and websites, to illustrate their experiences.

Jarrard created a QR code for people to scan with their smartphones and be directed to the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Her presentation bridged her passions in health and education by focusing on educating her peers about a vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer and strains of the human papilloma virus.

Kathy Mellette, North Coordinator for the Hall County Honors Mentorship Program, said the program gives students a “huge step forward.”

“I’ve seen lives transformed when an adult in a profession shows that they’re invested in this young person,” Mellette said. “I think it completely changes their lives. Their confidence builds. Their focus builds. And sometimes, very often, they’ll say, ‘this isn’t me. I don’t want to do this.’ Which is just as good as loving it because then they save themselves four years of frustration going to college or technical school.”

Kassie Thomas, a senior at North Hall High School, learned that a career in music education isn’t exactly what she’s interested in doing for a living, although she may consider it as a hobby.

She helped her mentor, Mary Beverly, a music teacher at Mount Vernon Exploratory School, with the school’s production of “Willy Wonka Junior,” a musical staring 60 elementary students.

Thomas said she enjoyed being mentored by Beverly but discovered that perhaps her personality and leadership style wasn’t suited to controlling a roomful of small children.

“I don’t think I thought enough about what really goes into doing it,” Thomas said. “Some of the things caught me off guard, like I always thought working with little kids would be a breeze because they’re so little and cute. But you put them all together and they’re a little crazy. I’m not loud or controlling, so I couldn’t control them very well.”

Thomas said she’s glad to have learned more about herself before going to college and realizing music education wasn’t right for her. She’s now considering majoring in English because she enjoys writing.

She said she believes that if more of her peers could participate in a mentorship program, they too would be able to set clear and realistic goals for their education and future careers.

“If nothing else, they can know before they go off to college what they want to do instead of just going and saying, ‘Well, I’m going to do this’ and then change their mind,” Thomas said.

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