Twenty-one students from Calera High School recently spent four days getting better prepared for the journey ahead of them. A joint effort by Calera High School, Alabama Power Company, the Shelby County Schools Foundation, and the system’s Career Technical personnel allowed these students – ranging from upcoming freshmen to 2016 graduates – to spend time learning about different careers within the Southern Company organization, see firsthand the many opportunities within such a large organization, and even try their hands at different tasks.
“Last summer, we got a chance to visit the Alabama Power General Test Lab here in Calera with some of our science teachers,” Principal Joel Dixon said of the camp. “The whole place is incredible! From a very obvious attention to excellence, to the varied applied sciences they use, to the wide array of quality jobs, I left with one thought, ‘My kids have to see this!'”
Dixon began the process of securing a nearly $5,000 grant from the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation and partnering with environmental affairs supervisor Jason Carlee from Alabama Power to develop the camp.
“They were great partners, eager to help students see the connections between academic skills and workforce demands,” Dixon said. “They really embraced the ideas we shared and developed some customized opportunities based on students’ interest.”
The first day of the Power Up camp was spent at Calera High, where students engaged in classroom activities related to what they would be seeing and doing the remaining three days. The students participated in group problem-solving activities and heard presentations from Shelby County School’s Job Coach Aubri McClendon on soft skills as well as learning about different career paths from Jason Watters, Alabama Power’s talent acquisition coordinator.
Students also took surveys in which they selected specific sessions based on job areas they’d like to learn more about. From these survey results, the student’s schedules were created for the second day. Students had opportunities to tour and hear from fleet mechanics, engineers, linemen, welders, environmental specialists, field biologists, chemists, and people who work in product development and marketing.
“I was amazed at the employment opportunities and services that Alabama Power provides locally as well as nationally,” said Assistant Principal Chris Sims.
Freshmen Camden Cline was also surprised by the different fields of work within Alabama Power.
“It’s not just the different jobs; it’s the different kinds of work within each job,” Cline said. “You have mechanics who may be working on a chainsaw one day and a boom truck the next. It’s really cool to see how they all seem to realize how their work affects the guys in the field and the customers at home.”
On the third day of camp, students toured the Gaston Steam Plant in Wilsonville, where they got a close-up view of all the things that go on within the plant to produce power. In each opportunity, students were given the chance to ask questions of their host.
“The students had great questions about electricity production and about the environmental challenges faced by the utility industry. We enjoyed their visit and appreciated the opportunity to talk with them,” said Bob Wilson, a project engineer at the plant.
“Alabama Power invests time and resources to help their customers improve their products,” Boone explained to the students. “If we want to grow our business, it’s in our best interest to help our customers grow theirs.”
Senior River Partridge saw tremendous connections between what he learns at school and what he saw at Alabama Power.
“The best part for me was getting those hands on experiences, and how open they were to answering our questions,” Patridge said. “I learned from the school and workplace that it’s more real than I expected. I took AP Chemistry and when we went in the Chem. lab they were saying stuff that we learned or talked about in the first month of class.”
One thing that sophomore Jalen Pearson noticed was that every session began with safety reminders. “It clearly shows it matters to them,” he said.
Alabama Power company officials said the Power Up Camp was not only a great experience for the students, but for their company also.
“It was a pleasure working with the students and it’s great to see that they gained something from this experience. If just one is able to improve their situation or find a greater purpose for their life then it was a success.,” said Carlee.
“We know the applications of what they’re doing in school; we see the connections between their now and their future,” Dixon added. “The opportunities to make those connections more real,more tangible for them is invaluable. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. Our mission is for every child to graduate and every graduate to be prepared. These kids are better prepared today than they were a week ago!”