AIM program creatures future leaders out of LPS students
Apprenticeship. Internship. Mentorship.
Lawton Public Schools’ newest program aims to help a select group of future leaders find their voices and passions years before they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Mark Mattingly, executive director of student services, said AIM was conceived about 18 months ago by him and Patty Neuwirth after they learned of a similar program during a conference in Oklahoma City. A school district gave a presentation there over a program that paired high school students with professionals and leaders in the community to help give them an idea of what a future in their chosen career would look like. Mattingly and Neuwirth were intrigued by the idea and felt LPS could do it better.
“We got together and thought Lawton has more resources than that community and we can do it ourselves,” Mattingly said. “We put a group together and started brainstorming. By the spring, we had a full committee together and began making plans.”
Looking for students with leadership potential
From the start, the goal was to find young students (sophomores became the focus) who had potential for leadership, but perhaps didn’t realize it themselves. The district didn’t want to pick the already apparent best and brightest. It wanted to seek out the diamonds in the rough — the students could be the future leaders in business, government or society, but weren’t quite there or didn’t realize their own potential.
“We wanted teachers to hand-select the kids who they thought might not actually apply because they didn’t think they would get selected,” Mattingly said. “The teachers selected them and gave us a slate of, I think, 36 candidates, who applied. We went out and interviewed them in teams and selected 20 of them.”
Once the students were chosen and the AIM committee learned what they wanted to do when they graduated school, they were paired with a mentor who worked in that field or a field closely related to it. The idea was for the student to get to know their mentor and to discover what it’s like to work in the field they’ve grown up aspiring to join. For some, that meant being paired with a doctor. For others, their mentors were truck drivers or firefighters. Each one was uniquely paired with someone who had been hand chosen by the committee after an extensive search in the community.
“We went to the Chamber of Commerce and we talked to them and identified a few people,” Mattingly said. “Patty is a longtime community member. She’s active in the chamber and other civic organizations and she had an eye on some people she thought would make good mentors. We went through Great Plains Technology Center, Lawton Public Schools and Cameron and put the word out to a kind of select audience. We wanted to make sure, especially this first time around, that we knew who they were. We didn’t want to get someone who might end up dropping the ball on us.”
The AIM program went beyond pairing a student and a mentor. It involved a three-day period during which the 20 students — three chosen from each high school and two chosen from the Gateway Success Center — worked closely together through a series of workshops, activities and team-building exercises that not only brought them together, but showed them different aspects of their possible future careers.