The Advanced Career Exploration (ACE) program at the Storm Lake High School has gone by a number of names through the years, but the concept has been the same. The program is designed to assist students in developing and implementing a career plan through career exploration, hands-on activities outside the classroom and employability skills training.
ACE participants were initiated and officers for the school year were installed during a special ceremony last week.
The program, instructed by Pegg Stark, is participated in by any junior or senior. The curriculum helps prepare the students for future employment. In the classroom, they take part in personality testing and research careers which helps the students determine what types of careers they may be best suited for. They also work on writing cover letters and resumes.
As juniors the students take part in job shadowing. This entails going into a business setting and following an employee around, getting first hand experience of how a particular job is done.
As seniors, the ACE participants take part in internships, similar to the job shadowing experience but longer in length and sometimes a paid position.
The instructor is pleased with the skills these activities offer the students. "This forces the students to get out in the community and see different work sites." From the experiences, the students may see if they are real interested in the type of employment and wish to pursue it further, or they may see that they aren't interested and would prefer to explore a different career area.
The community has been super about working with Stark and the students.
ACE also operates a business in the school - The Daily Grind - which offers work experience. The business is patronized by students, staff and visitors to the school and offers a variety of flavored coffees, lattes, espressos both hot and cold, and Italian sodas. There is even a special mocha beverage named for the Tornadoes which contains Irish cream and chocolate.
The Daily Grind has been at the school for three years. ACE participants take turns working during their free times and even before and after school. The beverages are offered to fans during the home football games as well.
"We knew it was a gamble when we started," said Stark of the introduction of coffee in the high school setting. Mark Redenbaugh of Abner Bells brought in a portable coffee cart for one day to see what the reception of the beverages would be. The one-day venture brought in $800.
It was so well-received that it was decided to make the cart a permanent fixture at the school. It is leased from Redenbaugh and the popularity of the beverages continues. Last year, $1,000 was made.
The money raised at The Daily Grind is used to pay for awards given during the annual competition between the participants, pays for leadership training, and for service projects including the Adopt-A-Family program among other things.
The primary objective of the ACE program is to ensure that students graduate and attain a positive outcome, which includes full-time or part-time employment, military service or post-secondary education and or/ training.
This year's officers are Angelica Manriquez, president; Jennifer Yanez, vice-president; Marie Khamphavongsa, secretary-treasurer; Jasmin Carrasco, community service representative; Eduardo Lopez, social representative; Tony Raveling, marketing agent.
"This is a great group of kids to work with," said Stark. "They are all reliable and honest."