A fair trade

Students recently graduated from the JEVS Career Exploration Program, which introduced them to many trades as potential career paths.

Hands-on learning: For the past 16 weeks, seniors from the Mastery Charter School Gratz Campus traveled to Orleans Technical College for an after-school program on the trade industry. Their graduation ceremony was held on Feb. 27. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

A group of eight seniors from the Mastery Charter School Gratz Campus will be graduating with much more than just their high school diplomas.

For 16 weeks, the students traveled to Orleans Technical College for a twice-a-week after-school program that gave them a crash course in the trades industry. After the graduation ceremony on Feb. 27, students walked away with plenty of stuff, like knowledge and experience in a number of trades, their own handcrafted benches and a possible career path.

The career exploration program is run by JEVS Human Services. This is Douglas Moore’s second year teaching the program.

“I’ve walked in the students’ shoes before and I wanted to show them something different,” he said. “Some of the students may not want to go to college but work well with their hands.”

This year’s more project-based agenda had the students learn cabinetry, which involved building the benches, as well as learning the basics in plumbing, carpentry and electrical. After the graduation ceremony, the students showed off their newfound skills for friends and family. They took photos with their benches and demonstrated work with a power saw and plumbing.

Maureen Quiles-Rosa, coordinator of the program and a college adviser at Mastery, said the program partnership came to be when she was looking for ways to expose students to more trade-related opportunities.

“It starts a connection for younger students and creates a vision for their future,” she said. “Students see there can be money in trades and that college is not the one and only option.”

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Quiles-Rosa said that at least two or three of the students told her they plan to start at Orleans right after they graduate.

Sarah Hollister agreed with the sentiment that students should realize college is not the only option for them. Hollister oversees JEVS’ Youth and Gateway programs, which she said aims to create “stackable” experiences for students.

“I see my work very much in a continuum of how are we providing young folks the opportunity to explore different career tracks, how they’re relevant to the academics they’re learning in school, and finding out what sparks their passion,” she said. From there, the goal is to continue building credentials that will lead students to living-wage jobs.

Erica Minor, mother of participating student Nafeei, said that she noticed a change in her son since the program started.

“It gave him the opportunity to decide which way he wanted to go” between college and trade, Minor said. “Since he’s been in the program, he has been more mature and it’s been developing him.”

LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Minor said Nafeei wanted to explore the opportunity as he decided what to do after high school, and that she is glad they signed up.

The connection the students had forged throughout the program was clear from their rowdy applause and cheers for each other during the graduation program. To express appreciation for Moore, whom the students call “Uncle Doug,” they presented him with a gift card.

This is the third year the program has run. Quiles-Rosa said it is a great success in showing students a broader range of opportunities.

“With the students finishing, we’re going to continue to provide support in the trade areas,” she said. She said they would set up a job shadow experience in the trades, as well as pay for their OSHA 10 training, which is a class that introduces students to safety expectations on the job site. ••