Business mentors give kids an edge

By Beth Britton 

Published: August 29, 2000

Sixteen year-old Qristy Smith wrote her business plan more than a year ago. 

The Mountain View High School junior is two years away from high school graduation and another four years away from realizing her dream of graduating from New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology. 

Even so, she is well on her way to accomplishing her goal of opening a fashion boutique and design studio in Bend. 

Part of Smith's game plan revolves around her participation in the Community Mentoring Program, a joint effort of the School-to-Career Alliance and the Bend Chamber of Commerce's Business and Education Council. 

Smith has been working with Kerry Duncan, owner of Bend's H2O Sportswear, for the past month. It is Smith's second fashion-oriented internship, and she said she approaches her internship opportunities as seriously as she does any of her classes. 

"I love learning and submerging myself in this stuff, and I want as big a head start as possible," Smith said. "This offers a peek at reality." 

Smith is only one of many area students who have taken advantage of a professional mentoring program during the past couple of years, but local organizers hope to see more participants. 

Council member Melinda Anderson, manager of economic development with the Bend Area Chamber of Commerce, said the program helps young people primarily to help discover a career. 

"They get a sense of what it is to work, and they establish a connection with an adult person in a working field," Anderson said of program participants. "This year we've expanded to include both young men and women." 

The program is open to all interested students ages 12 and over, including homeschoolers and community college students, said School-to-Career Alliance's Kelly Cronin, who works out of a Mountain View High School office. She is also a member of the Chamber's Business and Education Council. 

The program matches professional business people with students who have expressed an interest in a specific career, Cronin said. Students explore career opportunities, prepare for jobs and begin building a network with professionals in a specific field, she said. 

To earn credit for the 12-week program, students meet with their mentors for one hour each week, keep a journal of the experience, write a paper and research the career field. 

"Our goal is to help kids find career direction by offering them the opportunity to explore careers early," Cronin said. "The one-on-one connections they can make with mentors will be invaluable the rest of their lives." 

The Butterfly Challenge mentoring program, designed just for young women, placed about 20 young women with professional mentors during the past two years. 

Cronin said the goal for the community mentoring program is to place 30 young men and women with mentors by the end of the year. 

"Seeing kids' interest spark — to me that makes my whole week," Cronin said. 

But students are not the only ones benefiting from the program, Cronin said. There is a lot of community business support, she said, and mentors like Angela Lee are outspoken proponents of mentoring. 

Lee, a lawyer with Crabtree & Rahmsdorff, said she has had several interns, young people who want to discover what working in the legal profession on a daily basis is really like. 

"The most positive thing for me is I get to help these students shape their futures," she said. "I think the most important thing is that students get a realistic idea of what it's like to be an attorney because they have different ideas from television." 

Students learn a lot by accompanying Lee to court, too. 

"They're learning how people can get themselves in the oddest situations," Lee said. Charges the students have seen adjudicated include driving under the influence of intoxicants and shoplifting. 

Lee said that regardless of whether the student goes on to pursue a career in law, it's important for her to provide mentoring opportunities. 

Kerry Duncan of H2O Sportswear agrees. Duncan, who is currently acting as mentor to Qristy Smith, said the community is full of students who need guidance. 

"This program gives students a head start on a career choice, and it gives them exposure to the day-to-day business functions so they feel comfortable in a professional atmosphere," Duncan said. 

As for her specific working relationship with Smith, Duncan said the young woman is "very driven and has so much in order." 

"She's very structured and goal oriented, and it doesn't cost her anything to be in my store," Duncan added. 

"It's like a backstage pass to business and she can soak up as much as she wants." 

Smith, in true sponge-like fashion, said she intends to learn as much as possible during her remaining weeks at H2O Sportswear. 

"She trusts me and takes me seriously, and I really appreciate that," Smith said of Duncan. "It's a privilege to help out." 

Contact: the School-to-Career Alliance at 383-6032 or www.bend.k12.or.us/stw

Call for a consultation:
(541) 678-5614

Fax: (541) 633-7383
360 NW Vermont Place
Suite 100
Bend, Oregon 97701

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