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Career Path Mentors Program
                  


Motivating students onto positive career paths


 ANNUAL SEGUE GALA 

[2008 Article in Ventura County Star]


Volunteers spend 2 hours talking with students in county

By Kim Lamb Gregory, Ventura County Star

Monday, November 17, 2008


Photo by John Arnold.

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Photo by Dana Rene Bowler: Trudy Arriaga, superintendent of the Ventura Unified School District, speaks at the annual Segue gala Sunday.

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Samantha Schilke's dream of becoming a professional dancer blossomed into a goal, thanks in part to her teacher and mentor, Ventura Ballet Company artistic director Colleen O'Callaghan. "She gives us tips no one else could," the 16-year-old Ventura ballerina said, "tips from her personal experience." Schilke and fellow members of the Ventura Ballet Company danced selections from "The Nutcracker" on Sunday evening at a fundraiser celebrating the importance of mentors to high school students like Schilke.


It was the third annual fundraiser for the Segue Career Path Mentors Program, where community members from a variety of careers visit Ventura County high schools and talk about what they do.


"Nowadays, people don't have as much time to be mentors as they once did," said Segue founder Jerry Beckerman of Ventura. "Rather than having to commit to be a mentor once or twice a week for years, the commitment is two hours, one time." Anybody from any walk of life can volunteer to be a Segue mentor. Mentors sign up online at http://www.SegueProgram.org. Then, they visit a participating area high school and speak for 20 minutes in three different classes. It is open to all Ventura County high schools.


"Their presentations are only 20 minutes long," Beckerman said. "Fifteen, plus five for questions. They go to a second and then a third class. And in the span of two hours or less, they are able to reach about 100 students, which is so very efficient." Physicians, accountants, prison guards, teachers, businesspeople, writers and a host of other professionals have been part of the program, which has had about 120 career mentors volunteer so far. Four area high schools are involved. In Ventura, Ventura, Buena and Pacific high schools are signed up, as well as Channel Islands High School in Oxnard.


Debra Jordan, a Buena High School teacher, believes in the program. "Last year, I used the Segue mentors for my Algebra I block," she said. "These are students who have generally taken algebra two or three times and haven't passed." Recognizing that some of the Algebra I students were more mechanically than mathematically inclined, she had tradespeople come and speak. They told the students that even if they don't plan to go to college, they have to pass algebra and graduate if they want to learn and work in a trade. "I have had students who have come up to me, and they didn't know there were other career options open to them in apprentice fields like welding," she said. "If they know they are not at a dead end and they have some options open to them, that's what's really important."


Pacific High School teacher Chip Fraser said hearing from a successful person gives kids a concrete goal and the specifics on what it takes to get there. "This leads the kids to realize 'if I'm going to be a doctor or plumber or farmer, what's it going to take?'" Fraser said.


Beckerman, a retired businessman, started the program simply because he saw a need. Five years ago when he was having one of his regular lunches with former Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Charles Weis, "we realized we, as a society, were abandoning our youth at a critical crossroads in their lives," Beckerman said.


California School Boards Association President Paul Chatman said that with education funding down, programs like Segue are crucial. "When community and education come together, they make something we in education couldn't possibly do."