Twice a month, more than 90 GE Aviation employees arrive at Aiken High School by bus, filing into the school in their business attire. Inside, they break into small groups with the school’s 300 seventh- and eighth-graders, gathering anywhere they find space.
Over the course of an hour, lives are changed — both for students and their mentors.
The mentors and students are part of the Aiken Advisory Team program, which is helping students learn how to build relationships — the number one component to success in high school and beyond. Starting this school year (2014-15), all high schools in Cincinnati Public Schools created Advisory Teams for students in grades 7-9 as part of the district’s new My Tomorrow*ed initiative.
My Tomorrow is reimagining high school, aiming to better prepare students for their futures. My Tomorrow is a bold vision for education, one that combines high expectations, technology and mentoring to prepare all students for success when they graduate high school.
The collaborative partnership between GE Aviation and Aiken High School provides students with valuable real-world connections that help prepare them for the next step in their lives.
“What GE is giving my students, money could never buy,” said Aiken Principal Lisa Votaw. “Their commitment to our students provides experiences that will stay with our young people throughout their lives.”
During the Advisory sessions, GE Aviation mentors and students discuss topics that range from creating healthy relationships and how to improve vital communication skills, to setting and achieving academic and career goals. The sessions help students develop skills needed in a knowledge-based economy, including critical thinking, responsible decision-making and collaboration.
“This is helping us better understand what we need to do to be prepared,” said eighth-grader De’Asia Blackmoen.
For eighth-grader Kyeaira Bess, who hopes to become a doctor, a recent discussion on setting short-term and long-term goals resonated with her.
“We’re learning that to achieve your dream, first you have to set goals, and then you have to work hard to achieve them,” she said.
Cassie Parkos, a GE Aviation design engineer and the advisor for Blackmoen, Bess and four other girls, returned this year to continue mentoring at Aiken.
“These girls are really amazing,” she said. “I volunteered for a second year because I wanted to follow their progress and see what they are going to do. This has been a really good experience.”
“We have a responsibility to be involved,” said GE Aviation Mechanical Engineer Jade Watts, who is in his third year of volunteering at Aiken. “It’s a matter of developing our community. These are our future colleagues.”
While the mentors are giving students some skills needed to take charge of their futures, mentors also are seeing a difference in their own professional and personal lives. Design Engineer Audrey Keen noted that Advisory has helped her hone skills she uses every day.
“It has taught me a lot about communication and preparation,” Keen said. “It has also taught me about diversity of thought, which is something we are working on at GE.”
And for many mentors, the simple act of volunteering their time to help others is enriching their lives.
“You have the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life, and they make a difference in yours,” Watts said.