Camelot’s Richmond Campus Readies Grads for the Workforce
Teachers and staff at Camelot Education schools mentor students in innovative and creative ways that prepare them to become responsible young adults.
Ray Strickland, executive director of Spartan Academy in Richmond, VA, is one of those people devoted to empowering students to reach their full potential. The school’s Workforce Readiness Program cultivates an environment dedicated to student success. Spartan Academy aims to develop well-educated and self-sufficient students ready to enter the workforce.
Strickland, who has been at Spartan Academy for a year, said the Workforce Readiness Program prepares students to compete in the changing global marketplace.
“We’re preparing them for life’s endeavors, regardless of their post-secondary education goals,” he said. “Our job is to lay the foundation for their awareness of the expectations of being adults. Mentorship means everything when it comes to our students; building a rapport with them as quickly as possible. Ninety percent of my students are from households that are below the poverty line, and they have not been successful at their comprehensive high school. These are the young people who need a second chance. When they come to us, they learn they have potential, that they’re worth something and that they can make something out of their lives. That’s not what they’re used to hearing. But they learn from the outset that we care about them.”
The Workforce Readiness Program consists of a nine-week training regimen held during each quarter. Workshops prepare students to:
- Learn how to create and update resumes
- Fill out job applications
- Participate in mock interviews and learn about proper interview attire
- Explore a variety of careers and the requirements
- Receive transportation to and from interviews
- Participate in job fairs and Spartan Academy Workshops
Strickland said that he, like many of Camelot’s staff, came from the same environments that their students are from, which is essential in building the mentor relationship. Many students begin working while they’re still at Spartan Academy.
“This is a critical component for them. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you’ll do something desperate to get it,” Strickland said. “Having employment means they have some financial means and that helps keep them off the streets and out of crime. They have the opportunity to go to work now.”
Strickland said part of Spartan Academy’s continuing mission is also to maintain a connection with its students after they leave. Part of that consists of the Spartan Scholarship program, which helps graduates who choose to continue their education at a college or university. For others, it means simply maintaining the mentoring relationship after they graduate and have found employment.
“I remember one student, a young woman who came to us because of a riot situation. She was polite but had a bit of an attitude. She called herself a ‘lifer.’ Eventually, she returned to her comprehensive high school but I maintained contact with her,” he said. “She has her own apartment now, her own car, she’s working. She let me know she couldn’t have done it without our help. That’s why we do what we do at Camelot. These kids know we’re going to be here for them, even after they leave. I call that success.”