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State Scholars business partners key to academic program

October 21, 2009
TILTON — From mentoring to job shadows, the State Scholars business partners who are working with Winnisquam students are offering them a chance to look beyond the classroom to potential future careers.

New Hampshire Scholars is part of the State Scholars Initiative, which uses business leaders to motivate students to take rigorous courses in high school, better preparing them for college and their careers. The Winnisquam Regional School District was one of six districts in the state to pilot the program, and data shows significant enrollment increases between 2007 and 2008. For example, junior class enrollment in chemistry grew from 43 to 91 students, while college prep physics jumped from 10 students to 28. Thirty more students took either Spanish or French in 2008 than in 2007.

"The sciences can be the most daunting," said WRHS school counselor Jason Zecha, M.Ed during the WRHS NH Scholars Business Partners advisory team meeting last week.

While New Hampshire Scholar students do their part by following a rigorous Core Course of Study, it's up to local businesspeople and community leaders to participate in the program. At their meeting, advisory team members talked about the program's future this year, with goals including a calendar fundraiser to raise money for scholarships specifically designated for State Scholars.

The team also discussed solidifying the lineup of business partners who will come into the school to talk to students about their jobs and how they got there. The "mentors" come in on a Wednesday, which is known as Community Day at WRHS, during a period set aside specifically for mentoring.

"We're using the mentoring time to invite business partners to give a 13-minute spiel about their job," Zecha said. "What do you do all day? How do you get to that place?"

After the talk, mentors are invited to stay for lunch and mingle with students or set up a table with information about their business or community service organization.

Business and community leaders who don't necessarily want to speak to classes are encouraged to become members of the advisory team, offer company tours, or provide job-shadowing opportunities. In February, the WRHS State Scholars will participate in the nationally recognized Groundhog Job Shadow Day, but interested businesses need not wait until then.

"We would entertain job shadows at any time," Zecha said.

Board members said they expect 20 to 25 students to apply for State Scholar status this year, about the same number as last year. Information about the program was available to students during career day at the high school, and board member Deb Tessier of Franklin Savings Bank said it "went over very, very well."

The priority for the State Scholars program right now is to sell prize calendars, which will raise money for scholarships for WRHS State Scholar graduates. The calendars will go on sale Oct. 23 for $5 each. Anyone who purchases a calendar will be entered into the prize drawing and have a chance to win one of 31 prizes, which include $25 gift cards to Borders, Wal-Mart, Funspot, Mulligan's Restaurant, Uno's, or Applebee's, among others. Breakfast for Two at Pauli's, tickets to Red River Theatre, and a half-hour massage at Arvidson Chiropractic are on the calendar as well. Two three-credit courses at the Community College of Southern New Hampshire are also up for grabs, each with a $560 value.

"They were all very receptive of what we were doing," Tessier said of the businesses that were asked to provide prize donations.

Each day a name will be drawn, starting Nov. 15 through Dec. 15. Calendars are available for sale at Franklin Savings Bank, Tilton and Franklin Main Office locations; Northway Bank, Franklin and Tilton locations; and at Winnisquam High School's Main Office.

Anyone interested in becoming a business partner for this program, should contact Jason A. Zecha, M. ED., School Counselor at 286-4531.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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