In West Virginia, it is a graduation requirement for students to complete an experiential learning project. A final project for seniors can be somewhat overwhelming on top of scholarships, college applications, job-hunting and regular classes, but although it can be seen as an extra stressor, many seniors also see it as a much-needed real-world learning experience.
At Pocahontas County High School, seniors are required to complete a mentorship, which requires 57 hours of work on a job site, a portfolio and a presentation of their experience to a committee of teachers.
Students work on-site with a mentor at an approved location that compliments their proclaimed major. They can work with businesses and organizations such as the county police, local hospitals, libraries, the local newspaper and the forest service. They are required to spend 40 hours of their mentorship on their selected job site and can complete the other 17 hours volunteering for their community and/or continuing their work with their mentor.
Kendra Hubbert completed her mentorship requirements at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. She said she had a good experience with the mentorship program, and her experience made her rethink her career decisions.
She thinks one of the reasons why the mentorship program is helpful is because it allows students to shadow in the career they want to study in college. One of the highlights of her mentorship experience was being able to see a real image of the inside of a human heart.
Danielle Stuart completed her mentorship with the Community Care of Marlinton. She said she also had a good experience with the program but found it stressful.
Lorena Rose completed her mentorship with Youth Health Services. She said her experience was “awesome,” and she enjoyed working with the children in the program.
Mr. Patrick Gibson has been the mentorship program coordinator for three years. He says he believes in the program or he would not have taken it over.
He sees students who have great experiences and students who just do what they need to do to graduate. But either way, he always sees the students gain real-world experience, create bonds with their mentors and learn about the career they are planning to pursue.
“You get out of anything what you are willing to put into it,” he said.
Ultimately, the mentorship program allows students to have a better idea of the career decisions they are making for college and the rest of their lives. Although seniors may see the program as a burden and a serious stress factor during their final year of high school, they also seem to see it as a way to learn more about the workforce and to help them make better decisions about their college majors and future careers.