Program to Match Students with Jobs, Mentors Seeks Financial Help

Retired U.S. Army Lt. General John D. “Jack” Gardner speaks before Haverhill City Council in 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

A multi-faceted program to match students with living wage careers is looking for a bit of a boost

Jack Gardner, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, told Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night that plans for a mentor program have been met with great enthusiasm but no money. He says the Haverhill Public-Private Partnership he founded last year needs $116,000 to launch a mentor program on time this summer. The money would hire two people, rent offices, buy a computer and telephones and pay for training and other expenses.

“My goal is to get the funding locked in by late July so we can start hiring the people in August,” he told councilors.

In the last few months, Gardner says, the partnership has expanded to about 50 organizations. Two businesses have offered to help, but haven’t said how much, and he is waiting on five others.

Councilors were quick to offer suggestions. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle, for example, asked whether the School Department might add something to its budget. Councilor William J. Macek suggested City Hall or local businesses may have available office space.

Gardner explains mentors work with students on a short- or long-term basis. They may work in a field where a particular student has an interest; provide assistance to students whose parents may not be available because of jobs; or get a student with high absences back on track at school. He adds, the program recognizes there are living wage jobs that don’t require college educations.

City Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien endorsed the approach, noting it helps students better understand how classwork relates to future employment. “The education and school time does convert to opportunities in a lot of different ways they don’t even know about yet so that should be very interesting,” she said.

Besides mentorship, plans call for briefings to help middle and high school students and their parents understand the range of work opportunities, assess abilities and develop career plans and eliminate transportation as an obstacle. The latter might be addressed with pre-paid cards for rides.

Council President John A. Michitson called on Gardner’s military experience for inspiration. “General, you need an army. We’ve got to help you. We have to help you.”

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