Community Connectors Program seeking mentors, internships for students

By William K. Alcorn



The Community Connectors program is seeking mentors, internships and externships to help juniors and seniors in the Youngstown and Warren city school systems become workforce-ready.

Community Connectors kicked off its 2016-17 program Thursday at Choffin Career & Technical Center with a plea from Loisjean Haynes-Paige, Youngstown district program internship director at Choffin, for businesses and individuals to step forward and provide what the program needs.

Haynes-Paige described internships, paid or unpaid, as learning on the job; and said externships are for people who are certified in something but want continuing education.

Anyone interested can call her at 330-744-8759 or email her at lois.haynespaige@youngstown.k12.

“Being a mentor can involve as little time as an hour a week, but it can be much more,” Haynes-Paige said.

One person who stepped up Thursday was the main speaker for the event, Youngstown native Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, a retired boxer who held the World Boxing Association lightweight championship from 1982-1984 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015.

Mancini said his Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini Foundation is working on sponsoring a mentoring camp for young people.

Speaking to the audience of about 100 Choffin staff and students and other interested people, Mancini urged the students to follow their passion and dreams, as he did.

“Don’t worry about money. If you have a passion for what you do, and if you’re good at it, the money will come,” he said.

“I always knew I wanted to be a fighter. So after I graduated from high school, I went to New York City to learn my craft,” he said. And when he was through boxing and wanted to become an actor and film producer, he went to Los Angeles to learn that craft.

However, Mancini said: “Dreams without action are dead. You have to go after them. You only achieve them through hard work and education.”

“Dress to impress gets you success. Find a mentor and let that person help you along. That’s what I did,” he said.

Mancini also touched on the second subject of Thursday’s meeting: the value of learning a trade.

“All these trade schools are necessary,” he said.

That was also part of the message presented by Joseph Meranto, Choffin executive director.

The “college for all” mentality needs to be broadened to “post-high school training for all” to include one-year and two-year degrees, Meranto said.

He urged students and their parents to aim not just at a college degree, but toward a career.

“Education and technical skills are the new currency. Employers want to know what you can do, and do well. I’m not saying don’t go to college; but education with a purpose is the goal,” he said.

Meranto also talked about some of the changes at Choffin, one of which is a half-day career technical option for students who want a career tech education but don’t want to give up their home school.

Choffin Career & Technical Center also is creating more partnerships with parochial and other schools, Meranto said.

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