January 2016
Youth Matters

Investing in the Future

 
  Kay Larrimore, left, coordinates the Work-Based Learning program. She works with Candace Coston to record Candace’s work hours for the week.

Thomasville community supports successful Work-Based Learning Program.

When the economy took a downturn in 2008, most Alabama schools had difficulties finding jobs for students in their Work-Based Learning programs. This was not the case, however, in Thomasville, a community of less than 5,000 people. Even through the uncertainties of the recession, businesses in this community stepped forth to offer jobs to students.

The Work-Based Learning curriculum connects what students learn in the classroom with real-life job experiences. Students participate in either paid apprenticeships or unpaid internships. The school and the employer work together to plan work-based experiences associated with the student’s career objectives. The students are then mentored and supervised by both the employer and the WBL teacher.

Students gain a greater understanding of the workplace experience while observing professionals who mentor and model successful strategies and behaviors. Their work experiences encourage tolerance, respect and understanding among all groups. Students are also able to develop a network of professional contacts who could potentially help them with future employment.

 
Thomasville Healthcare and Rehab Center employs many WBL students. Their residents relate to the teens and bond with them. Quatez Austin delivers linens to the residents and brings a smile every day.  
   

The benefits of the program have been measured in a rise in both attendance and graduation rates among WBL participants. Although Thomasville proudly boasts a 95 percent graduation rate, school officials quickly pointed out that they will not be satisfied until all students graduate prepared for college or a career.

Thomasville High School has seen demand for the popular program grow each year and, in 2015, placements are at an all-time high. Local employers have learned that WBL students are good investments. These students not only have the practical skills employers are seeking, but they also possess the soft skills that make a good employee. This relationship has benefitted both the community and the schools. Students in WBL pumped over half-a-million dollars into Thomasville’s local economy last year. In addition, the success of the program has led employers and community members to have greater trust and confidence in Thomasville’s schools.

"The Work-Based Learning program is an example of what makes Thomasville great," said Chuck Alford, principal at THS. "The cooperative effort between school and community affords our students work experiences and training that will benefit them long after their high school days."

Gina Wilson, director of Thomasville’s Public Library, agreed. Three of her recent workers found jobs at major university libraries. The students all told Wilson their work experiences in Thomasville’s library prepared them for working in a college environment.

 
  Recently, representatives from Golden Dragon Copper met with Thomasville city school officials to set the foundation for a WBL internship with their company. (From left) Randall Fullington, Career Tech Director; Chuck Alford, Thomasville High School principal; Kay Larrimore, WBL Coordinator; Sheldon Day, Mayor of Thomasville; KC Pang, Director of HR & Corporate Affairs at Golden Dragon; Latoya Dixon, employee relations/benefits coordinator at Golden Dragon; and Dr. Vic Adkison, superintendent of Thomasville City Schools.

"We have loved each student who has worked here," Wilson said. "They bring a fresh perspective to our staff. Also, our customers enjoy seeing those THS shirts here in the library. I would encourage any employer to use these students."

Ernest Curry of Walgreens said his participation in the program has been a positive experience.

"This program has been a God-send for our business. The quality of students we get is very high. Our customers know these kids, and they have relationships with them and support them. I feel like we’re working with the community to mold the future of these youngsters, and this is what our country needs to do!" he stated.

Curry said the program has helped him to develop a larger pool of good employees while motivating his current employees.

Mayor Sheldon Day sees the program as a model for a community working together.

"Employers realized our schools ‘wanted’ their input on how to better prepare our children for the workplace and their future careers. Thomasville’s WBL program is a wonderful example of cooperation and collaboration to develop a ‘win-win’ for our students and our local businesses," Day said.

The success of the program continues to attract even more businesses. Recently, representatives from the Golden Dragon Copper plant approached city school officials about starting a student intern program.

Scott Lewis, president and general manager of Lewis Pest Control, has been a part of the WBL program since its beginning. Lewis pointed out that for this partnership to work it must be beneficial to both parties.

"It has been easy for us to get extra help while helping the kids get the credits needed to graduate. The kids are an asset to my business. They are prepared, and they do a good job."

Lewis pointed out that one of the former WBL students is now a fulltime employee who has moved up to work in one of his other businesses.

"There are so many great employers in Thomasville, who, along with our hard-working students, have made this program a success," explained Kay Larrimore, who coordinates the program. "The students do what they are supposed to, and they work very hard. I have to say that the businesses in our community and our students are the keys to the success of Thomasville High School’s Work-Based Learning program."

The Work-Based Learning program is an investment in the future with mutual benefits for everyone involved.

"We are so excited to give these students the opportunity to participate in this Career Tech program," Alford added. "Our community works with us to make sure all of our students graduate and are prepared for life."

For more information about this program, call Kay Larrimore at 334-636-4451.

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..