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Testing the waters
Program gives teens chance to explore careers
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Manteca Police Community Service Officer Shaun Ferraro mentors Kayla Gallegos. BOTTOM PHOTO: State Farm Insurance representative Jacob Naven explains office policy to Give Every Child a Chance student Veronica Castillo at his West Yosemite Avenue location. - photo by Photo courtesy of Meredith Payne


Staff reporter for the

Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

The Give Every Child a Chance Employment Mentoring Program helps teens explore various career options.

It is a six hour per week, six-week-long commitment that provides youth the opportunity to shadow an expert in the career field of their choice to find if the job would be something they would be passionate about to pursue as a career.

GECAC staffer Meredith Payne works to find both interested students and business professionals willing to mentor students.

Payne said the tutoring program’s objective is to build self-esteem and self-worth while teaching a trade or skill.  It is hoped that the mentoring by professionals will encourage and motivate students to stay in school and successfully transition into a college or work place environment.

Recent studies have strongly indicated that high school students often drop out of school when they do not understand the connection between school curriculum and a future career. It also helps re-enforce the importance of a high school diploma.

Payne explained that if the mentor takes the option to hire the student after six weeks of shadowing, Give Every Child a Chance will pay for half of the salary, up to $5 an hour for a six-month period.  The employer would be responsible for taxes or any benefits associated with the job.

Orientations classes for the students are a must before they can be sent off to a mentoring job site.  The four hours of classroom time includes: how to build and write a resume, writing a cover and thank you letter, dressing for success, interview preparation and appearance, time management related to a work schedule, customer service and phone etiquette and how to research and apply for scholarships.

Any student in need of help in buying clothes for the program, Give Every Child a Chance offers two days of appropriate attire for the individual’s work site.  Mandatory safety equipment, such as steel toe boots, hospital scrubs and professional clothing for office work, will be provided by the tutoring program.

Payne added that the program staffers will address the importance of arriving at work on time and learning the best way to juggle work, school activities and home life.

She noted that she currently has 16 students waiting for placement in various professions.  She has a 21-year-old who is looking for a mentor in dog grooming along with a Sierra High School student, who at 16 years old, voiced her interest in criminal and immigration law.

Another 17-year-old student from East Union High School wants to be a cake decorator while a Sierra High senior is hoping to be matched up with a psychologist.  A 21-year-old is hoping to be an electrician and is looking for the enthusiasm and teaching ability of someone already in the trade.

A couple of the GECAC hopefuls are planning for a career in nursing. A 17-year-old Manteca High student is exploring the field of photography.  Sierra High has another student who wishes to become a makeup artist and Weston Ranch High School has a girl who is looking forward to being a message therapist and is searching for a mentor in the field.  A boy from the same school is looking for insight through the program in becoming a chef.

The GECAC program manager quoted several Manteca and Lathrop professionals who told of their experiences with the students who shadowed them in their work environments.

Manteca Police community service officer Shaun Ferraro said it was “a very rewarding experience” for her. 

“I enjoyed sharing my career with someone that was eager to learn new tasks.  I hope that the knowledge and skills that Kayla Gallegos walks away with are ones that will benefit her for the rest of her life.  I would not hesitate to be a mentor again for Give Every Child a Chance,” she said.

Restaurant owner was hesitant at first

Andy Kotecha of CK Grill & Bar in Lathrop said he was very hesitant in taking on a student to mentor when he was first asked to be involved in the program.

Past experiences had left him with a less than a positive attitude toward teenage boys and their work ethics, he explained.

 “A lot of times (in the past) they had proven to be immature and not serious about their jobs.  I was completely surprised and realized that this is not true.  Jacob was an outstanding young man.  He was conscientious, eager to learn and made himself an asset in our kitchen,” he said.

Jacob Naven of State Farm Insurance said he was fortunate to have been selected as a mentor in the Employment Mentoring Program and had been showing Veronica Castillo just how a State Farm Insurance office operates.  When her mentoring was over, she was offered a job in the office.

“We have gone through phone etiquette, email, organization, business systems and other pertinent information on how an office should run.  It has been my pleasure to be able to teach someone the skills they can only learn by working in an office, and help her to be better prepared for a career in the future,” Naven said.

Naven suggested that other business owners in the community, who would like to give back to the community, to contact GECAC and learn what the program has to offer them and how their involvement would have a positive effect on area students.

“I believe that every person you help will better our future,” Naven said.

Professionals interested in being part of the employment mentoring program may call Meredith Payne at 825-7003 with offices on Sun West Place in Manteca.