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Numerous mentoring programs around the country regularly match businesses with kids. The varied programs are critically important and often show positive results. But few, if any, of these initiatives involve the head of the company in a year-long effort to broaden the horizons of at-risk students through the world of business.
In an ambitious effort to prepare vulnerable children for rewarding careers in the future, Risen Christ School (RCS), a 325-student, K-8 grade school located in the Powderhorn Park area of Minneapolis, has created an innovative program, Imagine the Possibilities.
More than 90 percent of RCS's students come from families who are living either at or below the poverty line. Many of these students will become first-generation high school graduates. Because these students have limited contact with the world of business, the school believes they would benefit from personal interactions with business leaders.
Imagine the Possibilities program will pair the top executives from over a dozen companies with up to six students in grades 6-8. The business leaders/mentors would design a project related to their field to be presented over the course of the school year to their group of six students.
Michael McHugh, president of Midwest Construction Group and Dave Bice, president of Bald Eagle Erectors are teaming up to create a program to introduce the students to a variety of careers in construction beyond manual labor.
"We are going to build our program around a construction project that the students can follow from beginning to end so they can understand each phase," said McHugh, who attended RCS, formerly Holy Name School.
"This will not only help them understand the components of a project, but more importantly, the students will get a first-hand look at the varied and virtually unlimited careers that can accompany each component," McHugh said.
McHugh and Bice will begin by introducing the students to the field of architecture. Their lesson plan will also include field trips to project sites, including a tour of the new Target Field. Bice's Bald Eagle Erectors provided the aluminum hand and guard rails inside the stadium.
"The world of construction is huge and provides countless career opportunities," said Bice. "From design to site preparation, from marketing to accounting, and from project manager to administration, there are many career paths for students to explore. But whichever door they choose, education is at the threshold, and our lesson plans will begin and end with what happens in the classroom."
Just this year, McHugh, an African-American, founded Midwest Construction Group, which serves as a business consultant to minority and women-owned construction businesses. Previously, he served as the executive director of National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC), a nonprofit trade association that addresses the needs and concerns of minority contractors. McHugh serves as the chair of contract compliance for the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner and the chair of the education committee for the American Contract Compliance, and is a member of the Minneapolis Workforce Council Member and Associated General Contractors.
McHugh received his bachelor's degree in Classical Piano from the University of Iowa and his mini MBA in Real Estate Development from the University of St. Thomas. He lives in North Minneapolis.
Bice, a Native-American, has served as president and owner of Bald Eagle Erectors since 1994. Bald Eagle is minority owned and based in Eagan, Minn. He is a member of the Minnesota Steel Erectors Association and serves on the board of directors of the St. Paul Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity Commissioner. He previously served on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA), National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) and Minnesota Native American Chamber of Commerce. He is currently on the board of The Circle. He lives in Brooklyn Center.
Adding a women's perspective to the construction industry, Bice and McHugh will be joined by Jane Sanem, director of member services for the Association of General Contractors (AGC), the leading trade association for the construction industry.
The construction business used to be thought of as jobs just for men. "Not so" says Sanem. "From hardhats to management, more and more women are joining the industry every day."
Student participation will include focus group research and other ideas to help youth understand the importance of their education in preparation for future careers. Funded in part by an inner-city education grant from the GHR Foundation, RCS's Imagine the Possibilities will result in a myriad of benefits to both students and their mentors.
"The approach is both innovative and creative. Because the students are the focus of the campaign, they will bring back to the classroom insights and knowledge that will also influence, inform and enlighten other students," said Fran Rusciano Murnane, RCS's director of advancement and program manager. "Imagine the Possibilities will allow us to expand our academic capital and give our students a broader educational experience."
For more information about Imagine the Possibilities, see their website at: www.risenchristschool.org.