Students in the work-based learning program at Cartersville High School seized an opportunity to thank their mentors for their guidance and support all year long.
WBL Coordinator Shannon Boyer hosted the Work-Based Learning Mentor Appreciation Reception Thursday night in the school cafeteria to give her 38 juniors and seniors in the program the chance to honor the mentors and employers who have guided them toward their college and career goals during the 2017-18 school year.
“The mentors are invaluable,” Boyer said. “The mentor/student relationship is crucial to the growth of the student. These employers understand that a mentor is there to guide good decision-making and help the student understand and improve, rather than govern hiring decisions. These good people invest in the student’s academic, professional and social growth and have a vested interest in their overall success. They take the time to correct and explain.”
Boyer said she’s planned appreciation breakfasts for mentors twice before, but this year, she wanted to have an event that wouldn’t be limited by time or event space.
“My vision was for the event to be more inclusive and to be intentional in recognizing the impact that the teachers, community, employers, mentors and parents have on the success of my work-based learning students,” she said. “I felt that an evening reception was the best opportunity to allow for all of these groups to attend.”
The event began with a 30-minute mixer where parents, guests, CHS administrators, mentors and career, technical and agricultural education advisory committee members could browse through the WBL students’ individual displays of their portfolio and digital presentation of their career and college plans as well as display tables set up by CTAE teachers and club members, Boyer said.
During the reception, CTAE Director Marc Collier, Assistant Principal Shelley Tierce and CHS graduate and Georgia Association of Career and Technical Education Executive Director Matthew Gambill addressed the crowd of about 100 people.
Boyer recognized Ansley Roper as the Outstanding WBL Senior and Jasmine Koch as Outstanding WBL Junior, honors that were voted on by the students in each class.
Roper has been mentored by Dr. Lisa Walker from Westside Animal Hospital, while Koch has worked in both nursing and administrative positions at Cartersville Medical Center this year.
WBL students recognized their mentors and explained to the audience how those mentors had impacted their lives this year.
“If the mentor was present, they accompanied the student to the podium and were presented a keepsake folder with a certificate of appreciation and a handwritten thank you card from the student,” Boyer said.
Finally, Mentor of the Year awards were presented to Walker, who was nominated by Roper, and Cartersville Primary School teacher Darya Barnes, nominated by junior Aynslea Baxter.
“[Ansley] pointed out that Dr. Walker, through her guidance and willingness to hire her first as an intern and then as a paid employee, took a chance on her and has changed her life,” Boyer said. “Aynslea complimented Mrs. Barnes on her creative instruction and pointed out how she makes the activities and lessons fun for her class. This internship with Mrs. Barnes has solidified her decision that she wants to work with children in her career.”
Roper, a WBL student for two years, said she feels like she “literally won the mentor lottery with Dr. Walker.”
“She is so kind and truly cares about me and my knowledge,” she said. “I am really close with her family and look up to her as a huge role model in my life. This year, as well as last year, has been amazing and the experience of a lifetime.”
Boyer said she thought the reception went “exceptionally well.”
“Guests seemed to enjoy listening to the students talk about their mentors, and the students enjoyed having the opportunity to showcase their hard work,” she said.
Walker, who owns the animal hospital with her husband, Clay Walker, said she became a mentor in the WBL program two years ago.
“I enjoy mentoring students that have aspirations of becoming a veterinarian,” she said. “I really want to help stimulate them to do their very best, work hard in everything that they do and try to guide them to become, one day, productive, hard-working veterinarians.”
Roper, 18, said she works with Walker Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and some Saturdays during the school year — and full-time hours during breaks — and has observed surgery, followed cases and learned how to get accepted into veterinary school.
“I turned 18 this year so I was able to take X-rays,” she said, noting she’s wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 5. “I pretty much do everything the actual technicians do at the clinic. I assist in surgery, with hospitalized patients and examinations. I give baths to boarders that are leaving, and I love working in the boarding kennels. Odd, but being in the back is one of my favorite parts of my job because I feel like I have built relationships with patients that board often with us.”
Walker said Roper, who plans to earn an animal science degree from the University of Georgia then continue on to UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has “grown tremendously this past year” in the program.
“The difference between wanting to become a veterinarian and doing what it takes to get into veterinary school is a lot of hard work and dedication,” she said. “Ansley has learned that this past year and has risen to the occasion.”
Walker said she thinks the WBL program “presents excellent opportunities for students to gain experience and knowledge in the field of their choice.”
“These students are exposed to situations that are usually only found while in college,” she said. “Ms. Boyer does an excellent job in teaching these students skills and providing them with experience that most students will never have while still in high school.”
Roper said out of everything she’s ever done, she’s “most thankful for the opportunity my school has provided me to be a part of the work-based learning program.”
“I have gained experience and thousands of hours over the past two years that will benefit me next year and as I apply to veterinary school,” she said.
Boyer added this school year has been “one of the best years as far as student growth.”
“These students have varying jobs, internships, backgrounds, nationalities and expectations, but every single one of them is committed to doing their best,” she said. “We have students who are balancing Advanced Placement courses, sports, home and family responsibilities, two or more jobs, financial responsibilities and social obligations. I find that work-based learning not only provides them the time to do it all but allows for moments of reflection and emphasizes the importance of being able to show hard evidence of how great they are through the professional portfolio.”
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