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“You inspire me.” First-ever Boys and Girls Club Pre-Apprenticeship class celebrates graduation

Photo by Omar Waheed.

Special promotional content provided by the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.

A first step for a brighter future. The first group of students ever in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County’s new Pre-Apprenticeship Program graduated Friday.

Friends, family, BCGDC staff and partners, all came to the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center, 5215 Verona Rd., to celebrate the first graduating class from the Pre-Apprenticeship Program. For the past few months, in addition to their high school classes, 12 students have been learning about the trades and a potential career in them as they look at their next steps in life.

“What can we do to inspire you? I want to tell you after watching you over the last couple weeks — you inspire me. This is why I’m here,” said Alan Branch, Senior Vice President of Workforce Development for BGGDC.

For 12 weeks, the 12 students made rounds to better themselves. Students met with trades organizations, like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers earlier this January to learn about being an electrician and joining trade unions. Students progressively found their passions in the learning experience. One student, Yahir, found his drive to work in carpentry after working with Habitat for Humanity and going through the program.

“Thank you for the instruction and dealing with me for the last three months. You guys are not friends to me, you’re more like family,” Yahir said. “For the last few years, I didn’t know what I was going to do in my life until I started working with Habitat.”

Students were left with a surprise after receiving their certificates. All were given a work bag by Duluth Trading Company, one of the program’s partners, filled with essentials needed for the trades like a hat, hand cream and a few other goods.

An extra gift was given to three students who went above and beyond the program. Students named Yahir, Natasha and Pedro all received a $400 scholarship provided by Capitol Bank to purchase workwear needed for their future in the trades.

Yahir, Pedro and Natashe receive their $400 scholarships as Stephanie Johnston, assistant VP for the Boys and Girls Club, applauds. Photo by Omar Waheed.

But it’s only the first step for the students. Most are in their final year in high school and have already found the path they plan on taking. BGCDC CEO Michael Johnson wants the students to aspire to even more than just the trades.

“It really raises a smile to my face to see you all graduate — the first inaugural class to graduate,” Johnson said. “Two things I want to request. One, that you create a personal mission statement for yourself. What’s your personal mission in life? Why do you exist on this earth? And then two, what’s your vision statement of your life?”

Johnson, who has seen the power of education in the trades transform lives, has big expectations for the inaugural class. He notes that some of the biggest donors to the BGCDC’s programs come from people in the trades who went on to start their own businesses and knows that the students, through continuous hard work and dedication, can do the same and inspire future generations.