As employers require more and more work experience from entry-level employees, where does that leave students who are fresh out of college and new to the workforce? GPAs and extracurriculars don’t carry the weight they once did, and students must consistently do more to get a leg up. To fill that gap and ensure that our graduates gain the valuable experience they need, GAC’s Community Relations and College Counseling teams have partnered together to create the GAC Summer Fellowship Program.
This highly-competitive program seeks to place select students into their dream workplace for 80 hours over the summer before their senior year. Students earn true industry experience in high school, allowing them to begin their senior year with a renewed enthusiasm to pursue their desired career, or perhaps to discover an entirely new passion.
Hand-selection in this program is another distinguishing aspect: Students are matched based on GPA requirements, industry interest, aptitude test results, and faculty insight. Margie Asef, Director of Community Relations, and Donna Pate, GAC High School counselor, invest significant time and energy into finding the right fit.
“It’s not just about the students. We want the experience to be mutually beneficial,” Asef says. “We are working to build long-term relationships with these businesses, ensuring future opportunities for our students.” The student is able to learn in a real work environment, and the business receives a worker who is eager to gain exposure to the industry with the fresh enthusiasm that only inspired teenagers can bring.
However, the program doesn’t launch these students unprepared. Asef and Pate work to train students on their professional image and hone “soft skills” that are often more subtly conveyed rather than taught. “It almost seems ironic to be training students on digital environments, but the students receive training on email and social media professionalism, often an unfamiliar arena for the digital natives.” Other soft skills? “A handwritten thank you note goes a long way,” Pate says. “It’s something that many candidates will not think of after an internship or even an interview. This training is what sets our students apart.”
Businesses have limited slots for internships, so selecting a rising high school senior could be a potential risk when hoping to hire for the foreseeable future. Without the Fellowship Program, many of these businesses would instead hire a college senior (who likely is searching for post-graduation employment) for their limited positions. Businesses gladly participate in the program because they know, from experience and reputation, that GAC students are exceptional performers.
Asef’s long-term relationship-building with the business partners throughout the greater Atlanta area has proven successful with fellowship placements at the following companies during the summer of 2019:
Good Samaritan Health Center
Morehouse School of Medicine
The Preston Partnership
City of Peachtree Corners
Gateway 85 Community Improvement District
Office of the District Attorney, Decatur
Gwinnett Daily Post