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Laurie Radke column: Youth Celebration honors students' achievements

5:13 PM, Mar. 31, 2013  |  Comments
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From discussions I've had, many people in the community don't realize everything the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce's Partners in Education (PIE) program does on behalf of area students and in the name of workforce development.

Fortunately, many of these offerings are given the spotlight at the annual event Partners in Education Youth Celebration, set this year for May 21. And you're invited!

The Youth Celebration is the "crescendo" of PIE's school-year activities, honoring students from its school districts: Ashwaubenon, Denmark, De Pere, Green Bay, Howard-Suamico, Luxemburg-Casco, Pulaski, Seymour, West De Pere and Wrightstown, and a number of Brown County private schools. That night is dedicated to honoring Brown County Teen Leadership (BCTL) and Youth Apprenticeship (YA) program graduates as well as the recipients of the 5/12 Scholarship, Technical Scholarship, Mr. Titletown Competition Scholarship and Brian LaViolette Foundation Scholarship. It is such a powerful, positive evening that celebrates upwards of 100 students as young as 5th-graders who enter the 5/12 Scholarship program to high school seniors graduating from our YA program.

So, what are these amazing workforce development opportunities? Let's start with the earliest one, the 5/12 Scholarship. This award singles out 5th-graders with potential in our school districts based on academics, personal involvement and school attendance. These students are followed yearly from to high school graduation, when their scholarship account balance (up to $1,000) is awarded upon entrance to a post-secondary institution. This year, we will celebrate 12 graduates, bringing the total awarded by the program to 293 since its inception in 1994.

Mr. Titletown Competition Scholarship receives a $2,500 scholarship courtesy of Scholarships Inc., as an outgrowth of winning the Mr. Titletown Competition and Formalwear Fashion Show each January. The PIE school districts are eligible to enter the competition, which includes judging on formalwear, talent and a question-and-answer session. This year, 12 area high schools participated, with Cayman Berg of Green Bay Notre Dame Academy receiving the main scholarship and Jack Janowicz of De Pere High School earning runner-up and a $1,000 scholarship from Green Bay Packaging. This event draws upwards of 700 students, parents and friends for the competition as well as viewings of the latest prom fashions, courtesy of DuBois Formal Wear and Elaine's Bridal Center. Proceeds are donated to PIE's Parent Networks to support post-prom and post-graduation celebrations. This year, Ashwaubenon High School, Denmark High School, De Pere High School, Seymour High School, Green Bay Preble High School, Green Bay Southwest High School and Green Bay East High School received $3,300.

The Chamber also issues several $1,500 Technical Scholarships for technical college-bound students each year, and serves as the administrator of the Brian LaViolette Foundation Scholarship, a $10,000 scholarship for one student. Since 1997, the Chamber has awarded 75 Technical Scholarships and will honor the sixth recipient of the LaViolette scholarship this year.

PIE also offers several hands-on opportunities to build leadership skills, soft skills and other skill-sets relevant to the work world. A series of 40 BCTL participants and 35 YA program graduates will grace the stage at the Youth Celebration to receive program-completion certificates. As a student-oriented version of the Chamber's Leadership Green Bay program, BCTL is about building and strengthening young leaders with skills, knowledge and experiences to prepare them to be effective partners for positive change in Brown County. High school sophomores participate in eight full-day sessions focused on developing leadership skills and incorporating that instruction into a civic information theme. Because sessions are held at various locations, they maximize these students' community awareness. They also participate in small group projects that tap their newfound leadership skills, creating everything from A Night of Hope suicide/self-harm awareness event to a social media campaign to encourage young people to boost their self-esteem and foster their individuality to Veterans Speak, a project aimed at logging the stories of area veterans for archival at the Brown County Library. This year's class brings the total who have graduated from the program to 340.

YA students are celebrating the culmination of a two-year program that combines classroom training at their high schools and at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College with paid on-the-job training at a business in one of the 16 industry areas offered, including health services, auto maintenance, engineering, welding, information technology and hospitality management. They graduate high school with college-level credits, invaluable real-world experience and earnings to show for it. This year, 35 students from nine Brown County school districts, participating in nine industry areas, will graduate from the program, bringing the total to 787. And there's ALWAYS room for more business participation; to learn more, contact Lisa Schmelzer at (920) 593-3411.

And the areas singled out at this event are a few of PIE's offerings. We have a subsidiary board of directors for PIE, composed of both educational and business representatives. I say thank you to them and to the businesses that make our programming possible as PIE members and sponsors.

If you'd like to attend our Youth Celebration, call (920) 437-8704. If workforce development is your passion and you'd like to find ways to get involved with our programs, please call.

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