Partnerships between schools and business are creating new ways to help strengthen education for our students. One such partnership in Lee County began this spring to help students in high school learn and enhance their interview and employment skills.
Belflex Junior Mentoring Program, which started in Alabama, is a way to help students better prepare for future opportunities in the work force. “Our program is constructed to crush poverty levels and provide essential skills needed that follow them for a lifetime,” explained Ann Hollingsworth, Belflex Staffing Network Community Outreach Manager. “The students take everything we teach them and apply what they have learned. They become more confident, have more self-worth and become invested in the community. They set their goals for what they want to do in life.”
The program was very successful in Alabama, so Belflex decided to have a pilot expansion of the program to five cities throughout the country. Sanford and Lee County Schools was one of the five cities throughout the country.
The seven-week program had sixteen students attend from Bragg Street Academy and Lee County High School. The program had a positive effect on the whole school at BSA, according to Principal Jolanda Jordan. “The impact on the total population of the whole school was positive and inspirational. We invited speakers from the program over to the school to speak to the whole population.”
Each week, the program had the students focus on a specific topic related to success. The program allowed students to focus on their futures and prepare them for their future goals. Students learned resume writing and interview skills including eye contact, how to dress for an interview and how to have confidence.
LCHS student Raul Pineda shared his interview experience, saying “the program was useful. It taught us things that we need for the future. The mock interviews were a perfect example of what you go through in a real job interview.” Dressing for success was a weekly focus that involved going to the Belk department store for an official clothing fitting and a lesson on how to dress professionally. The students even got to take home their new outfit! A week was dedicated to visiting and touring a manufacturing facility in the area.
At the end of the program, students celebrated with a graduation ceremony, earned certificates, gifts from local businesses and a scholarship for a class from Central Carolina Community College (CCCC). In addition, one student received a scholarship from the Bread of Life Ministries of Sanford for one semester at CCCC. Stephanie Jacome, a senior at LCHS, was the recipient of the award. She shared her view of the opportunity saying, “The Belflex program is the ‘Bread of Life’ because this organization provides us the opportunity to reach our goals.”
LCHS Career Development Coordinator Alison Poole also shared her opinion of the program. “This program was an amazing opportunity for students to work with the community and get the skills they need for after graduation,” she said. “The community has been amazing working with the students, sharing their resources and giving their time.”
Jim Espen, the Sanford branch manager of Belflex, summed up the program’s positive outcomes and future by saying, “The Belflex Junior Mentoring Program was a perfect fit for the community and the future of the program is looking good for many more students in Lee County.” Ann Hollingsworth added, “our program has touched the hearts of friends and families in the community.”