A student and her mom point at the '80 for 80' board

Making Their Mark

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Elevate Academy students make career commitments with support from peers and community partners

by Lindsay Trombly

Spring has sprung and graduation is right around the corner for the 80 seniors in Elevate Academy’s inaugural graduating class. The school’s ‘80 for 80’ program is designed to prepare students for their next steps beyond graduation; including college, career or military. Earlier this year, Elevate launched this program for their 80 seniors, and the names are stacking up.

During the school year, students have had to make decisions on what path they want to pave for themselves after graduation, and Career Placement Coordinator Brett Williams has guided students in developing their plans to achieve their goals. Student plans are now coming into focus.

I definitely have seen the dichotomy of them being in complete resistance to the whole concept, all the way to being nervous and excited when they sign the board. What is going to be great as the years go by is having the experiences in previous years where you can see the resistance, questioning, downplaying, etc. throughout the year and then seeing them at the opposite end of the spectrum when they sign,” Williams said. “And then the stories, I anticipate, they will come back and tell how it changed their life.”

CAREER – KEEPING IT LOCAL

The school, and its ‘80 for 80’ program, are giving students the support they need in order to attain their definition of post-graduation success. In this endeavor, the school connects local employers with students. Those employers offer students an opportunity to interview for jobs they might have an interest in and be eligible for doing.

Royalty Electric in Boise, ID is one of those companies, and they took students interested in joining the team to a job site to “get their hands dirty.” They did this so students would know for sure if that’s the route they want to take before making a job commitment.

Steve Meistrell, Owner of Royalty Electric, said as a family-owned business, they want to give back to the community, and the ‘80 for 80’ program is helping that effort as well.

“I would say it’s helping bigger than just the student. It’s for sure helping the student connect with real world business people…I think it also makes their family better and the community better,” Meistrell said.

He said he definitely sees students’ professionalism and readiness for the workforce through the school culture. Not just through how the students act, but because of the CTE curriculum.

“As you walk down the hallway every student will look you in the eye, address you, and say hello,” Meistrell said. “They really do set the students up to be successful from a business owner’s perspective. And when they walk on the job with us — they already have some kind of experience.”

Two students, Damian Garcia and Mario Cabrera, at Elevate Academy experienced their shining moment signing the board with Meistrell and their peers looking in to provide support. The seniors show they are committed to the Royalty Electric team, and the journey they are on toward a meaningful career upon graduation.

The seniors beamed with pride when Williams handed them the purple marker to sign their initials next to their name and company.

Garcia felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment after signing his name on the board.

Senior Damian Garcia, Owner of Royalty Electric Steve Meistrell and Senior Mario Cabrera stand together. Before the signing, Meistrell gave the two students hats welcoming them to the Royalty team.

Senior Damian Garcia, Owner of Royalty Electric Steve Meistrell and Senior Mario Cabrera stand together. Before the signing, Meistrell gave the two students hats welcoming them to the Royalty team.

“It [the ‘80 for 80’ program] makes you want to push more and gets you that extra push you need to finish. They are a really good company [Royalty Electric] and they take care of their people. When I found this company — I knew it was a good fit. Elevate keeps you on track in graduating and they are always there to help you. It felt good to sign the board — it felt like I was on the next step,” Garcia said.

Cabrera said Royalty Electric fits his style, and he is ready to learn new things every day to improve his craft and skill.

Meistrell said Cabrera and Garcia interviewed well for the positions while answering questions intelligently and honestly. He said they described teamwork well and took initiative with ladders and cables at the onsite interview. Both students were put through the paces of the job, including a tough, hands-on test he gives to every job candidate, which can be difficult, and Meistrell said they didn’t complain — not even once. That’s when he knew they took their commitment seriously and would be a good fit for Royalty Electric.

But, these two students aren’t quite jumping into the job site just yet; if the students complete the onboarding process, the company will pay for the students to complete four years of schooling through the College of Western Idaho to obtain their Journeyman status for certified electricians. During that time, the company will provide an on-site tutor for the students if they need extra support.

“We don’t have employees — we have sons at the company,” Meistrell said.

Cabrera and Garcia are taking the local business route for their journey after high school, but the route to success looks different for other students.

JOINING THE MILITARY

Senior Megan Benson is ready to join the Security Forces in the United States Air Force after graduation. She brings her skills and experience from studying Criminal Justice at Elevate.

“I’ve had a goal to join the Air Force since 6th grade, and it’s just what I’ve been wanting to do. Elevate helped me a lot more than my other school,” Benson said. “Elevate brought in the recruiter and had me sit down with them to talk to them about what I wanted to do. How to get me back on track with what to do in certain classes.”

Senior Megan Benson stands in front of the ‘80 for 80’ board with her new Air Force backpack, next to Technical Sargent in the US Air Force and Nampa Area Air Force Recruiter Paul Riley.

Senior Megan Benson stands in front of the ‘80 for 80’ board with her new Air Force backpack, next to Technical Sargent in the US Air Force and Nampa Area Air Force Recruiter Paul Riley.

The day of Benson’s signing, Technical Sargent in the US Air Force and Nampa Area Air Force Recruiter Paul Riley decided to surprise her at Elevate to sign the board with her. Benson originally thought her signing was going to happen the following day, but when she saw him standing in front of the board, and realized what was happening, her face was filled with disbelief and joy.

“We get to put her pictures out so people can see what our youth in our community are doing.  Especially Megan, being in the Air Force has been a dream of hers…and I’m so happy I get to be the one to help her achieve that dream,” Riley said. “Every time I need her for something she is there, she shows extreme motivation, and that led all the way up to her to becoming a member of the Air Force. She has the right attitude and all the right qualities for an airman.”

COLLEGE

There are also many students at Elevate who feel ready to take on college to be successful after high school  — for some — it didn’t seem like a possibility before attending Elevate. But now, they are making that dream a reality. Senior Sierra Shaffner signed her name to the board, indicating her commitment to attend Treasure Valley Community College in pursuit of a Psychology degree.

“I would like to go into research. Psychology is such a new science that I’d like to be a part of its progression,” Shaffner said. “Elevate has really helped me stay on track. I’ve never been a school kid or been academically focused even though I’m really smart. It’s helped me put all my energy into focus.”

A student signs the 80 for 80 board.

Senior Sierra Shaffner signs the ‘80 for 80’ board proudly.

Another senior, Charlie Ferreira, currently works for Lowe’s – saving up money to pursue a degree in Veterinary Technology from Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts. She feels confident in her decision after attending Elevate.

“I came here [Elevate Academy] because during my whole school career they told me ‘I can’t do it.’ Countless times in my educational career. I have dropped out for a while, I’ve gone back, I’ve gone to public school, charter school, homeschool, practically every school there is,” Ferreira said. “But Elevate actually helped me get there. Where I tell them ‘hey this is my dream’ and they actually help me on those next steps.”

Idaho New School Fellows Matt Strong and Monica White started Elevate Academy in 2019 with a vision to support vulnerable students who are struggling within a traditional education environment. Their vision has now come full circle for this first class of seniors – sparking a love of learning and the desire to create the future of their dreams. The class of 2022 is ready to take life on after graduation with more confidence and skills than ever before. And the ‘80 for 80’ program encouraged this talented group of students to remember their strengths.

Recruiters like Riley, said the program is ultimately a good thing for students to be able to plan their future. “When I went through high school we didn’t have anything like that, and if we did, I would have been more clear on my goals. Ultimately, I went into something I wanted to do, but I would have gotten to that point quicker if I had something like this,” Riley said.

Elevate Academy is a Bluum partner school and has received grant support from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and from Idaho’s Communities of Excellence federal Charter Schools Program grant.

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