The program shows the connection between careers and academics, allowing students to learn by “shadowing” experts in the workforce. A press release from the chamber stated that it also establishes “community partnerships between schools and businesses that enhance the educational experience of all students and introduces students to the requirements of professions and industries to help them prepare to join the workforce.”
“It was just a great day for everybody out there. I would really like to thank the business community, the great partnership we have with the Walker County Center of Technology, Bevill State, and the city and county schools,” Lewis said. “This year we were able to place more students in the workforce than we’ve ever done. That’s always been our intentions and our goal, to get as many students in the workforce where those businesses could shadow those students for half a day. We were very excited; it was an outstanding day.”
Students visited numerous area businesses, companies and departments, including the Jasper police and fire departments, Bevill State Community College in Sumiton and even the Daily Mountain Eagle, just to name a few out of the more than 50 that participated.
Patrolman Richard Blake Stockman and Sgt. Det. Chuck Henderson of the Jasper Police Department spoke with approximately 20 students from county and city schools Friday morning. The two displayed special gear and equipment officers use on a daily basis. They also allowed students to try on new inmate uniforms and gave them a tour of the station.
“We’re just trying to show the kids a little bit of what it’s like to actually be a police officer and show them what the everyday jobs are, show them all the cool equipment we get to work with and things like that,” Stockman said. “It really kind of shows the kids what police officers are really like instead of maybe the idea [stereotype] that they may get from other kids. It shows them what we deal with every day.”
Cordova High School ninth grader Marianne Westbrook said law enforcement is something she might be interested in one day.
“It’s different. It’s cool to learn something new,” Westbrook said. “Checking out the different jail cells” is what she enjoyed the most about her experience Friday.
Arriving at Jasper’s downtown fire station, teenagers watched as firefighters demonstrated the proper way to handle a hose and operate different equipment within the station and on the fire trucks.
Capt. David Lockhart, who has more than 17 years of experience with the Jasper Fire Department, said the job shadowing program is very beneficial for students in the area because it gives them an idea of what’s out there in the workforce.
“We do this every year for the schools. We have the kids come down from the schools, and we show them a little bit of what we do on a daily basis. We tell them about what we have to do to go to school to be a firefighter,” Lockhart said. “We let them try on some of our equipment; we show them the equipment on the trucks and how we use it. We just try to convince them if they haven’t got a career of what they’re wanting to do, that the fire service is something they may want to look at doing.
“We’ve got 27 [kids] today, and I think we got at least one from every school in Walker County,” he continued. “At this age, you’re talking about a ninth grader, most of them don’t know what they’re wanting to do anyway, so it gives them a chance to look at something different. If they’re going to college, if they’re not going to college, the fire service is available both ways.”
Kolby Russell of Cordova said being a firefighter is what he plans to become later in life.
“Yes, I actually am interested in this career. It is what I intend to do,” Russell said. “We got to look at the trucks, their course out back, watch them put on the gear, and watch them pull a hose and all that.”
However, battling fires isn’t for everyone.
Carbon Hill ninth grader Courtney Ciccone said she didn’t want to be a firefighter because “I’m not into fire,” but she did enjoy spending time with friends and watching them put on their fire uniforms.
While some of the students’ job choices were matched perfectly, others either showed an interest in the profession or were at least enlightened about a particular career that they didn’t have an interest in until their first, hands-on experience Friday.
Jodi Ann Martin, a ninth-grade student at Walker High School said, “It was fun. I got to try something different instead of being at school. I think it was fun asking different people questions and finding out what they’re interested in,” Martin said about her day at the Daily Mountain Eagle. “It’s good for people to get an idea, like ‘I don’t want to do that anymore, or yeah, I definitely want to do this.’”
Cordova ninth grader Cody Williams is more interested in music, but his experience in reporting Friday gave him a better idea of what a job in journalism is like.
“It was a lot more fun than I expected. I’ve never really been into the whole reporting thing, but I enjoyed myself,” Williams said. “Sometimes I feel like they’re getting up in people’s business, but it’s not like that at all. I was wrong.
“I think it would be pretty fun to be a reporter,” Williams continued. “I was basically trying a new thing no matter what. I think it was a pretty good idea to let kids try new things and figure out other things that they’d want to do.”
Lewis said it is a challenge at times to match students with a certain business or field of interest, but by being out in the workforce it allows them to see first-hand what it’s like to be a professional for half a day.
“When those students get to go out in the workforce and they get to shadow for half a day, it shows them basic business principles — how you need to come to work dressed, what you need to be prepared for, needing to be there on time. It teaches them not only a little bit about the field they want to go into, but just basic business principles too,” Lewis said. “It is a true partnership when you have over 900 students to place in the workforce and to have those students go out and have community leaders being their mentor for half a day. That says volumes for our community.”