Shannon O’Neal got a call at her Four Oaks Bank office back in 2015 asking if she’d participate in a career fair at Garner Magnet High School.
She said yes and so began a new relationship that has blossomed over the last year and a half. At the career fair she met Lisa Daughenbaugh, the school’s new career development coordinator and Daughenbaugh hit her with the big question. Would O’Neal be willing to lead a group of business people in reforming the school’s Business Alliance, which had lain dormant for the previous five years?
Again O’Neal said yes and that was the start of a flurry of activity at the high school. Daughenbaugh and O’Neal recruited other members and together the group talked about how they could add to the school’s career and technical education program. They landed on a handful of successful ideas, from a training session on proper business dress which drew about 300 students to a personal finance program which drew raves from students and classroom teachers alike. Nearly half the students at Garner High School took part in the school’s second career fair.
“The health of a community is tied to the economic situation of the community. We want to make sure that stays strong and one way we can do that is through our schools,” O’Neal said.
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O’Neal also says the Business Alliance is about giving young people a reason to call Garner home long into the future. “Whether we have children in the school or not, we have a lot of students going through the school. They can either leave Garner and make their way somewhere else or they can come back to Garner and we want to give them a reason to come back to Garner,” O’Neal said.
Daughenbaugh, who works with students to help them focus on career paths while they are still in high school, said getting the Business Alliance restarted was one of her first goals when she took over the role in 2014. Aside from recruiting people from the business community, Daughenbaugh also had to convince teachers at the school that it was OK to give up their students from time to time to let them learn more about careers. “We felt like we just needed to do something visible that teachers could see. We don’t want to be an impediment to teachers. We want to be able to help them teach the things they are already teaching,” Daughenbaugh said.
That first career fair, when O’Neal and Daughenbaugh met, started the process of getting the message through to teachers, but Daughenbaugh says that’s an ongoing process. Some of the programs the Business Alliance sponsored in its first year succeeded in catching the attention of teachers. An exercise on personal finance, called the Reality of Money, had teachers coming to Daughenbaugh to ask that she put the program on again so teachers who didn’t send their students the first time, could sign up the second time.
Both Daughenbaugh and O’Neal say they want to hit the ground running when school opens next week. They plan to meet with other Business Alliance leaders in the first few weeks of school to map out a plan of programming for the coming year. Daughenbaugh hopes the Business Alliance can provide at least one program every couple months during the school year.
If your business would like to join the Trojan Business Alliance, email Lisa Daughenbaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org