Medomak Valley High School students in the school’s Jobs for Maine Graduates program won multiple awards at this year’s statewide Career Development Conference.
Students from the program won first place in the photo contest and fourth place in the Career Association Presentation.
Senior Alexis Nickles won third place in the virtual mock interview competition and senior Sarah Andrews took fourth.
All five students who entered the resume category — Andrews, Brian Cole, Nickles, Grace Owen, and Brendan Robinson — scored at least 35 out of 40 possible points and won awards.
Jobs for Maine Graduates is a statewide program started in 1993 that, according to its website, “strengthens Maine’s workforce and improves the economy by providing students with the guidance, skills and opportunities they need to succeed in their careers.”
The program has been in place at MVHS for the past three years and the current specialist, Ryan Rice, has been teaching the program curriculum for the last year.
The Career Development Conference takes place each spring to celebrate the accomplishments of the program’s students. The competition was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. This year, a scaled-down conference took place remotely from April 13-16.
Eight juniors and seniors selected based on their grade and their experience in the program were able to compete in a photo contest, career association presentation, resume preparation, virtual mock interviewing, decision-making, and public speaking. Winners were announced at the end of April.
“We did really well this year!” Nickles said. She said the conference is “like a review of all the stuff you prepare for in Jobs for Maine Graduates, so you kind of already know it.”
Andrews had already made her resume in class. “I really just had to tweak it a little bit,” she said.
The photo contest was a team competition. The theme this year was “25 Years of Jobs for Maine Graduates.” Nickles said the class made a collage with a central picture featuring three generations of people who have been involved with the program at MVHS, with “black-and-white aesthetic pictures around it to really make the center picture pop.”
The class chose a freshman to represent the youngest generation, Rice to represent the middle generation, and MVHS Principal Linda Pease to represent the older generation.
Nickles said Pease really pushed to get the program at MVHS three years ago, “so we thought she was the right person to put there.”
For the slideshow presentation, the team included bios on every member and events the program held for the community.
“On a normal year we would do a lot more events, but this year we were challenged,” Nickles said. Still, the team raised $1,850 for the Waldoboro Food Pantry by selling clay bowls created by MVHS students.
“We’ve done interviewing, which has helped a lot. I just developed skills over time, which I wouldn’t have had at all if I wasn’t taking part in this class,” Andrews said. “That helped me get a job. Same for the resume — I wouldn’t even know where to start without being in this class.”
Andrews currently works at The Jojoba Co. in Washington, where she seals and packages bottles of jojoba oils. She said she was unsure of how best to fill out the application. “I needed help with that and my specialist was there,” she said.
Nickles said, “We go over finding jobs as well as how to resign from a job.” Nickles runs the front end and sells coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts in Rockport, where her mom is a manager. She recently transitioned there from a job she had held for a year and a half. “JMG helped me resign from that job,” she said.
Andrews plans to attend the University of Maine at Farmington and major in elementary education. Nickles plans to attend the Aveda Institute, a cosmetology school in Augusta.
Andrews said that Jobs for Maine Graduates also helped with college applications and finding scholarships. “There were quite a few scholarships my specialist had talked to me about and I didn’t even know that they existed,” she said.
She said the program has shown her “how to be an adult the right way.”
Nickles said it has given her “confidence in being an adult.”
“I’m not as scared to go be on my own,” Nickles said. “I’ve got a grasp on it through this class.”
Rice currently has 50-55 students in the program and looks forward to building on those numbers next year. He is a mentor and a liaison for his students even after school ends — he follows up with them after graduation and every month for the next year.
“We expect students to want to work and use the skills they’ve learned,” he said.
“It’s good to see them coming out of their shells, being more successful and being prepared to work as adults,” Rice said.