Austintown High School finished its first year of the Community Connectors program.
By Samantha Phillips
As Austintown Fitch High School wrapped up its first school year with the Community Connectors program, Superintendent Vince Colaluca said it has been a success.
The mentorship program is funded in part by grants from the Ohio Department of Education, which gave $100,000 so Austintown Schools and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber could bring Community Connectors to the high school.
This year, there were 41 juniors and seniors in the program. All of them were connected with a job or a paid internship, including at the chamber, and 39 of them were connected with community mentors.
Nick Santucci, director of education and workforce development with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said the program addresses the lack of “soft skill” training in high schools.
“Companies are saying students and individuals are not showing up for potential job opportunities dressed appropriately with structured resumes,” he said.
“We tried to expose them to as many opportunities that will make them more well-rounded in the workforce and higher education,” Santucci said. “We are seeing an impact on the kids. We bring local businesses to come in and talk to the kids about the importance of being professional in an interview.”
The students who are recruited for Community Connectors go through a special curriculum before they begin working and meeting with the mentor. The curriculum focuses on the importance of dressing for success and building professional relationships.
The program has local partners including Austintown Rotary Club and Vallourec.
Each partner contributes, whether they take kids on a tour of the company or talk to students at schools about how a company operates.
“We want students to be workforce ready,” Santucci said.
Colaluca said one aspect of the program he likes is it gives students exposure to career fields they are interested in studying, and helps them decide if they want to pursue trade school or college for it.
“We love working with the chamber. They have been wonderful,” he said.