Indian Creek, MarkWest partnering for challenge program

WINTERSVILLE — Indian Creek High School and MarkWest Energy are teaming up with a nonprofit program that connects education and business to hone student success.

The school will kick off efforts with the Challenge Program Inc. Monday, and sophomores, juniors and seniors will take part in activities from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The organization, which is based in Johnstown and Pittsburgh, has a mission of building sustainable business and educational partnerships while introducing students to careers in their community.

Maria Campieri, project development manager, said the nonprofit was started 15 years ago by Dan Perkins, who was inspired by a business mentor and believed that relationship was pivotal to growth and success. Perkins wanted to share that idea, and today, the Challenge Program is in more than 100 schools across the Tri-State Area and wants to reach even more students.

Campieri contacted the school district and shared MarkWest’s interest in partnering with the high school. On Monday, about 300 students will hear him and MarkWest officials discuss the importance of school attendance and studies and how a strong work ethic can lead to success on the job.

“The program has a motivational piece where we challenges sophomores, juniors and seniors and give 15 of them $200 cash awards,” she explained.

The kickoff event will incorporate five categories that are considered to be important in the workplace: Attendance; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics skills; community service; academic improvement; and academic excellence. Cash awards will be given to a sophomore, junior and senior in each category, with seniors earning their prizes during the senior awards ceremony this spring and underclassmen being announced next fall.

Campieri said the program seeks to connect businesses to high schools to motivate students and introduce them to local businesses.

“Some business partners get really involved with career days, facility tours, job shadowing and giving interviews,” she said, adding that students have eventually joined the work force of their sponsored firms. “Last year, 29 students received full-time jobs. The mission is not only to motivate kids, but there is also a career-related piece.”

Julie Robinson, career pathways teacher at ICHS, has worked with guidance counselor Mike Cottis to facilitate the event and said more activities are expected in the future.

“It’s real world stuff and touches on what we do here at Indian Creek High School,” Robinson said. “The students will work with technology and volunteerism and interact and the company could provide classroom presentations, tours of the facilities and even job shadowing for kids who are interested in the industry.”