HELP Helps!

Furthering its mission to help local students, Hammons Education Leadership Programs Inc. hosts the one-of-a-kind fundraiser, HELP Hits the High Notes Again!

By: Dr. Ridge Hammons

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How did you pick your career? Did you have to settle on jobs you already knew about, or did you get to explore a number of exciting careers before you even got out of high school? Hammons Education Leadership Programs Inc. (HELP) takes kids out to look at jobs and see which one excites them and makes them want to know more! Research shows that students who explore careers while still in high school graduate five times more often than students who do not.

HELP is holding its one-of-a-kind fundraiser on Oct. 19 at Brewster Street Ice House. There will be music, excitement, great food and several of the folks we have worked with to tell us what HELP did for them! Mayor Martinez, State Rep. Hunter and U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold will kick off the show.

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We are planning a take-off on “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the basic theme of the evening – our acts include two separate groups from City Council, including Rudy Garza, Lucy Rubio, Carolyn Vaughn, Brian Rosas and Michael Hunter, along with another group consisting of Colleen McIntyre, David Loeb and JJ Hart.

Other acts include a group from H-E-B, the Early Crew from KRIS (Mike Gillaspia, Rachel Cole and Machlovio Perez), Alex Garcia, Ben Molina of the Westside Business Association doing “La Bamba,” Judge Greg Perkes, Chairman Mike Bergsma of the Nueces County Republican Party with Jennifer Ellis of the Democratic Party and many other local celebrities and note-ables.

Sponsors for HELP Hits the High Notes Again! include:
• REPCON
• H-E-B
• NavyArmy Community Credit Union
• Denny Bales Diamonds
• Grande Communications
• Corpus Christi Caller-Times
• ReadyFlo Systems
• Solid Rock Ranch
• Fleet Reserve Association
• Corpus Christi Association of Realtors
• Brent Chesney
• Prints Charming
• FASTSIGNS
• Arrow Printing
• Nueces County
• City of Corpus Christi
• Inspire Magazine

There will be a huge silent auction, including guns, jewelry, dinner and theater passes, as well as numerous other materials sure to excite and please. Materials to be auctioned include a generator, a YETI cooler, gold jewelry, art pieces, handcrafted barbecue pits from Craft Training Center, paintings and other things.

HELP programs
HELP takes at-risk and challenged youth on visits to various worksites around the city and the county to give them hands-on experience in jobs that might spark their interest and give them the desire to stay in school, or to receive the training they need to accomplish their dream. In fact, that is HELP’s motto: “How can you find the job of your dreams if you don’t even know it exists?”

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HELP’s onsite career mentoring program shows students exactly what it’s like to do a given occupation and introduces them to any number of career paths, be it welder, pipefitter, nurse, firefighter, police officer, auto mechanic or something else. Students get to see exactly what each career entails because HELP takes students down into the middle of the refinery, into the police academy, into the fire station, into the training center at Del Mar or into the mechanic shop to talk to, observe, interact with and shadow the professionals who are working in the field.

In HELP’s eight years of existence, we have taken more than 300 students on scores of trips to 100-plus local jobsites. Students generally complete at least one three-month rotation with us looking at different jobs every month. We go to places like the Port, Spohn Hospital, Sherwin Alumina, CITGO and Valero, as well as other large and small locales where large varieties of occupations are gathered and easily experienced in close proximity.

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HELP does things the schools cannot, and we go places that schools do not go due to legal restraints and fears of liability. We take our clients “where the action is.” We have no prepared lectures, no textbooks and no formal classes – just the experience of a job done well by those who do it best, and who are willing to share their expertise. Once young people find jobs they are interested in, we work to find them mentors. This is onsite career mentoring, the basis of all our programs.

We also install touch-screen computers loaded with videos and photos of our jobsite visits in schools we serve. These cutting-edge computers allow the students to virtually experience most of the real-world educational trips we take and decide if they would like to join us. We are planning on installing the latest Window on the World at Veterans Memorial in a few months to complete the circuit of every high school in the district, plus Tuloso-Midway and Ingleside.

Does the program work?
In a survey we conducted last year, 94 percent of the students we had interacted with were either still in school or had a job. Until every student has a career goal, this program will be needed and necessary, especially as schools are being forced to cut many of the vocational programs they do have due to budget constraints.

We have had students change from being regular visitors to the Juvenile Justice Center to being “once and done” visitors instead of long-term guests of the county and then the state. As then-County Commissioner Judge Brent Chesney told us, “You could use some of your people as the poster children for a recovery group. I wouldn’t have recognized them if I didn’t know who they were.”

Overall, by any measure, we can say that HELP helps! Perhaps the best statement came from the gentleman sneaking out of the presentation in the high-school auditorium at Robstown High School. I asked him where he was going, and he said he had parents in his office. His office? I had taken him for a student, but he turned out to be the principal. He then asked me a question, one to which I had no answer: “Where was this program when I was a student?”

For more information on HELP, visit www.helphelp.us.

Photos Courtesy of HELP

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