After gaining work experience, students sign contracts with area employers

Rogelio Arias and Koy Flores accept caps and job offers from Laura Longstreet, of Lumbermen’s, Inc.

Recently, students and teachers gathered in the Kelloggsville High School auditorium for a time-honored tradition: signing day. The tables on the stage had logoed caps and contracts just waiting for signatures from high school seniors, ready to commit to a team for the coming year.

But these teams don’t require spring training, hitting the weight room or anything athletic or collegiate, for that matter. These teams are businesses that have hosted students as part of a budding school-to-work program and the contracts offered full-time employment.

John Linker welcomes the crowd to his school-to-work program’s first annual signing day

“College isn’t always the route to go in terms of making money and being successful. The workforce provides a variety of jobs for you in case you don’t want to go to college,” said senior Ericberto Padilla, who signed a full-time employment contract to work in the rubber shop at Wyoming-based Mark-Maker Co. Inc. “If I decide not to go to college, this job gives me an opportunity to maybe go up in the ranks and make more money without having to go to college.”

Ericberto is one of 28 students — 24 seniors and four juniors — who participated in Kelloggsville’s school-to-work program, which partnered with nine companies that place students in paid positions for part of the school day. Of the seniors,10 signed full-time employment contracts, four are going into the military, and a handful are going to work part-time and go to school part-time. A few more are waiting to hear from the companies about offers.

“Not everybody is going to go sign that letter of intent in athletics, but this is something that they can be proud of,” said John Linker, work experience coordinator for Kelloggsville. “For the longest time, we pushed ‘four-year college degree, four-year college degree’ and for some kids, yeah — that’s the way to go. But for others, it may not be.”

Leonel Leon finishes signing his contract for full-time employment at Mark-Maker

Students are Valued Employees

Lumberman’s, a wholesale building materials distributor, signed three of the six Kelloggsville students it took on this year in the school-to-work program. Laura Longstreet, human resource generalist at Lumbermen’s, told the crowd assembled for signing day about the hard work and dedication of the students and praised them for their hard work, professionalism, and punctuality. Other companies in attendance included Lack’s Enterprises, Inc. and Advanced Interiors.

“The goal has always been, at the end of the year, to at least have an offer of a full-time position, whether they accept it or not,” said Linker, who planned the “first annual” signing day. “So far, for year one, it went very well. The biggest thing I hear from kids, parents, businesses is just the immense value of getting exposure to work.”

Leonel Leon, who also accepted a full-time job offer from Mark-Maker, said the experience has been eye-opening and rewarding.

“I’ve learned that a lot of people at my job depend on me to be there,” said Leonel.

Ericberto Padilla and Leonel Leon sign contract with Mark-Maker
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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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