CALAIS _ Planning for the future was on the minds of many of the students who attended the Jobs for Maine Graduates conference at the Washington County Community College last week.
Students from Machias to Baileyville spent the day interacting with fellow WCCC students and attending classes. They had an opportunity to learn the basics of everything from Culinary Arts to Medical Assisting and they all listened to a peppy interactive talk about scholarship opportunities and the future job market from Janie Small, youth programs manager for the Washington County Career Center, Maine Department of Labor. “Seventy-five percent of life is working so do something you love,” she urged the students.
Several of the students had an opportunity to meet former JMG students including Washington Academy graduate Amber Sode, who is a student at WCCC. Sode has distinguished herself as a member of the WCCC Student Senate; recently she was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She said the time spent in JMG was a positive experience. “It really prepares you for a lot of things in life that you wouldn’t expect high school to prepare you for,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to become part of JMG.”
More than 100 students attended the event. In addition to Calais High School and Washington Academy in East Machias, there were students from, Shead High School in Eastport, Machias High School in Machias and Woodland High School in Baileyville.
JMG is a nonprofit organization that works within Maine’s public schools. It serves more than 4,500 students from grades 6 -12, in 71 programs throughout Maine. The goal is to help those students who face challenges to realize their potential, graduate from high school and either go on to postsecondary education or join the workforce.
The mission of JMG, according to its website is to “identify students who face barriers to education, and to guide each one on to a successful path toward continued education, a meaningful career, and productive adulthood.”
Neal Williamson, chief operating officer at JMG in Augusta, said JMG has a strong representation in Washington County. “We have half dozen programs up here,” he said. He also praised WCCC for its hands-on role in helping the students. “So many of these students may get a chance to walk on a college campus, but being able to get a sense of what the classes are about and interact with the staff is huge, it really takes away the anxiety they may have about what it is like to be in college,” he said.
The morning began with Lori McBrine, Washington Academy’s JMG specialist who challenged the students with some fun exercises. In one exercise she told them they had to first stand then sit when they heard the letter “B”. She than sang, “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean.” After the students had stood and sat multiple times, they were relaxed and laughing. Afterwards, McBrine talked about the JMG program. “There is a lot of enthusiasm. There are a lot of good kids planning for their future and this is a great place to start and maybe even finish here at Washington County Community College,” she said.
Diana St. Pierre, WCCC admissions counselor, said this was the second year that the JMG Career Conference had been held on campus. She said there were multiple learning opportunities. “There are 12 WCCC programs that students have the chance to explore and sign up for today led by the college’s faculty,” she said.
Students then broke into groups.
Students Austin Porter, 17, of Calais High School and Richard Hatt, 16, of Woodland High School, worked with Welding Instructor, Will Dupuis who showed them how to take a piece of cast iron and turn it into a hook.
Hayley Simmonds, 16, of Lubec and a student at Washington Academy, made turtles out of marzipan, while at a nearby table fellow WA student Chelsie Preston, 17, of Dennysville, decorated a cupcake with blue icing. “I am having a lot of fun,” Preston said. “I learned some new ways of decorating cupcakes.”
In the college’s gymnasium, another group of students learned from Adventure Recreation and Tourism Instructor Scott Fraser about his program and also how to climb the college’s rockwall.
Fraser showed them how to put on climbing harnesses and then explained the need for a safety rope. While one student climbed, the rest of the students were tethered to the rope with carabiners, a D-shaped ring. “Each of you is going to play an intricate role in helping each other,” he explained.
Galen McDonough, 16, of Alexander and a student at Woodland High School was the first to climb. He had a big smile on his face when he returned to the ground. After that the rest of the students took their turn climbing the wall.
After the lunch break, students joined Chris Woodside, coordinator of WCCC’s Outdoor Adventure Center for a scavenger hunt.