FAIRMONT - Thirteen high school and college students from Martin County found rewarding work through the Martin County Youth Career Development program this summer.
The program was implemented through Minnesota Valley Action Council, with the county setting aside $50,000 to help create short-term paid experiences for youth at Martin County businesses.
"We had 13 students placed, and they were from all areas of Martin County," said Vicki Paskey, family resource coordinator for the Action Council. " ... We had them placed in regular businesses, in non-profits. But there was growth, both for the students and the businesses.
Dakota Fuller, a former Martin County West student, examines traffic and music logs for KFMC-FM in Fairmont. Fuller spent the summer as an intern for the Fairmont radio station as part of the Martin County Youth Career Development program.
The growth was evident in the students, who were requirement to turn in a "yearbook" page describing their experience.
"There was not one day that I went to work and did not see positive overall attitudes," wrote Connor Grupe, a 2010 graduate of Martin County West, of his work experience at Profinium Financial in Fairmont. "Working here has provided valuable ... experience for me in a solid business environment, and has also given me the opportunity to shadow many areas of the bank. In shadowing these areas, I have been able to see what the best possible fit for me is in the future."
Bryce Hansen, a senior at Truman High School, received an eye-opening experience while working at Heaven's Table Food Shelf in Fairmont.
"Working at Heaven's Table, I realized how great the need for food is solely in just our county," he wrote. "I also learned how great it is to help people and how appreciative people are in return for helping them."
Kathleen Bergt, who graduated from Martin Luther High School in 2009, also worked with Heaven's Table and Rural Advantage.
"While working there, I have been able to meet and work with people, both volunteers and clients, who come from different backgrounds," she wrote. "I feel this is a good experience for a teacher to have to prepare for working alongside parents, students and co-workers. I also have a better understanding of how many students in my classroom might come from homes with no food or supplies."
Not only did the program help students see potential careers in the community around them, but they grew personally, as was the case for 2012 Martin Luther High School graduate Amanda Wakey at her summer job at Anytime Fitness. Her mentor was Jack Von Bank.
"Jack taught me things that my education might not exactly teach me," Wakey wrote in her summary. "He taught me how personal goals and social skills with all kinds of people are important ... I am kind of a shy person ... Jack has been working with me mentally and trying to get me prepared for what kind of attitude and personality I need to have when being a trainer and working with all those people."
In other instances, the internships helped students get their foot in the door early for their careers.
"We had one student, Derick Zellar, who worked with the Walgreens pharmacy here, and the pharmacy helped him become a licensed pharmacy technician," Paskey said. "Plus, he can transfer to the Walgreens by where he goes to college and continue to work there."
Most of the businesses involved with the internship program would likely welcome their students back next year.
"It's showing these students how they can come back here to Martin County after college and work," Paskey said. "We had workshops where we did the breakdown of everything and showed them how it costs an extra thousand dollars a month just to live in the Cities, since so many kids want to go right to the Cities when they graduate ... We had such a strong interest, that we will probably have another program next year. At least this time, we will have a lot more time for planning and executing the program."