I have worked at one business or another, since I turned 16. I worked for both private and nonprofit businesses, for big corporations and small professional firms. I still remember the excitement, as well as the culture shock, of my very first job. Because of my own experience, I made both of my children get part-time jobs as soon as they turned 16. It was not for the money, though they enjoyed that aspect of working. It was for the experience of being a part of the workplace.
While our children are in school, they lead a totally different life than when they graduate and enter the workforce. Whether they enter after they graduate from one of the Philadelphia schools or after college graduation, the culture shock is there. Children, who have worked in non-neighborhood, part-time jobs during their adolescence, have an edge over those who have not. They have been exposed to the expectations that will be placed on them by an employer. They have experienced the “office politics” that even exist at a neighborhood McDonalds®. They not only know what to expect, but they have learned how to live up to those expectations.
The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania teamed up with 165 other businesses and organizations in January to sponsor Shadowing Day for Philadelphia schools’ ninth graders. Over 1,552 students spent a workday with a mentor at his/her workplace, giving the Philadelphia schools’ students a first-hand experience of the “real world” workplace.
Each Philadelphia schools’ participant was paired with an employee from a host business or organization. The student literally shadowed their mentor for an entire workday to see what they actually do in their job, what expectations they must meet, the interrelationships within that particular workplace, and how the employee handles his workload, coworkers and supervisors. The experience reduces the future culture shock, when these Philadelphia schools’ students enter the workforce.
The United Way campaign for mentors of Philadelphia schools’ teens first began in 1990. They work year round to provide an adult mentor for every adolescent in the Philadelphia schools’ region who needs one. There are well over 100,000 Philadelphia schools’ students, who have the potential of experiencing teen pregnancy and/or violence, as well as so many who live in poverty. The United Way believes a positive adult role model now is more important than ever in the Philadelphia schools’ area. They currently provide mentors for nearly 5,000 youth annually, training hundreds of new mentors and program leaders each year.
Studies prove that youth with a positive, adult role model are more likely to:
• View their educational opportunities in a positive manner, seeking to learn and attend school;
• Have less behavior problems while in school; and
• More likely to see a college education as a possibility.
Alba Martinez, president and CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, sees mentoring as “essential, because success in school is key to success in life” for these Philadelphia schools’ students.
This year’s shadowing day for the Philadelphia schools’ ninth graders was part of the celebration for the sixth annual National Mentoring Month, which raises awareness of the need and power of mentoring, recruits new mentors, enlists new businesses and organizations into the mentoring program, and recognizes current mentors for their positive impact on their community.