National Signing Day was Wednesday, February 6th, and is a day to celebrate all of the outstanding high school athletes that are signing to confirm their commitment to play sports in college. Yet, there are still so many opportunities for students when they starting think about life after high school.
In Ottawa County, National Signing Day was celebrated by holding Ottawa County’s very first Workforce Signing Day. The event was put together to recognize high school seniors who will be starting their career path in the workplace. Vicki Hegsted, Guidance Counselor for Danbury High School, welcomed teachers, parents and students to Danbury High School’s first Workforce Signing Day, to recognize three high school seniors who have made a commitment to join the workforce after graduation in May.
“Because of this partnership, we have the opportunity to pair our students with businesses in Ottawa County, and not only to provide them with internship opportunities, but with future career placement as well,” stated Mrs. Hegsted.
“I’m really excited for these gentlemen on the stage and can’t wait to celebrate with them, their future and what’s ahead of them,” commented Cari Buehler, Superintendent of Danbury Local Schools. “At the end of the day, while we cherish the time we get to spend with you while you’re a student here at Danbury, we really have to look at what your next steps are: what is life after high school going to look like for you?”
“This is a great place to work, it is a great place to recreate on the weekends, and there are so many opportunities that we have,” mentioned Jamie Beier Grant, Director of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation. “We want to celebrate those opportunities and celebrate the students who are looking to enter into the workforce when graduation comes.
Ian Kuzma has decided to work at his family’s business, Kuzma Concrete & Construction, to learn real world lessons with hands-on job experience. This includes meeting with clients to discuss the project, estimating the project, and completing the necessary tasks to finish the projects and gain customer satisfaction. Ian has been working along his father, Shawn Kuzma, and grandfather, John Kuzma, since he was 5 years old, and he has been a huge part of the success of the company, he is dedicated and conscientious, and is a huge asset of the company. He has aspirations to one day take over the family business. His father, Shawn, is extremely proud of Ian, his work ethic, his knowledge and his decision to begin his full-time career with Kuzma Concrete & Construction upon graduating from Danbury High School. Kuzma Concrete & Construction specializes in flat and decorative concrete, underground utility installation, retaining walls and paver projects.
Andrew Lyons will begin his employment this summer as a Deck Hand at VanEnkevort Tug and Barge, Inc., working on a freighter and taking part in various tasks. Andrew loves being on the lake and his future job offers him that opportunity. He gets paid to do something he loves – be on the water and a boat. This past summer, Andrew was given the chance to spend a week on a boat that he was able to work on, which included painting and shoveling. Andrew hopes to eventually become a captain and is very excited for the next chapter. VanEnkevort Tug and Barge Inc. is a privately owned, U.S. flag bulk transport company servicing the mining, steel and construction industries on the Great Lakes.
Noah Stys will begin working full-time at his family’s business, Affordable Lawn Care. At the age of 9, Noah was handed a rake and a tarp, and that’s when he got his first taste at making money. He was gradually taught how to use all of the different equipment and machines. Now at age 18, he can load up the truck and trailer with the equipment and machines, and go out and do the jobs on his own. Noah enjoys being outdoors and being active, and his family’s business provides him with both of those opportunities. Noah knew at the age of 14 that this was something he wanted to do – to take over the family business. He has taken part in all of the responsibilities of the business and is excited to carry on what his had started. He plans to live in Ottawa County and continue to serve the community. Affordable Lawn Care provides landscaping and lawn care services, including mowing, weeding, mulching, and more.
“We love our small community, which is why we stay local and affordable,” said Nicolete Stys, with Affordable Lawn Care. “Most of our customers are like family, and I’ve watched my brother Noah grow into a responsible, young adult.”
“It’s amazing to see how much they have changed and how much they have grown, and how short those years were. Being in education is similar to being a parent. You see your students grow, struggle, achieve, mature throughout the years, and finally prepare to leave and go out on their own,” commented Mrs. Hegsted as she congratulated all three seniors. “Ian, Noah and Andrew, the commitment you have made to your future and the grit it took to get where you are now, demonstrates the core values we live by as Lakers: Leadership, Accountability, Kindness, Excellence, Responsibility, and Service.”
“I’m very proud of these young men and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” mentioned Joe Miller, Principal of Danbury High School. “I’m very excited that we are the first school in the County to participate in such an event.”
All three seniors were asked about what they’re looking forward to the most when they enter the workforce and what feedback they have regarding today’s event.
“I’m looking forward to extending the business and get out more, meet clients who will take me on as their landscaper,” said Noah. “My mom wanted me to work with my dad and to go to a community college to learn the basics of taxes, so would be able to take over the business. You would need to go somewhere to learn that, so that’s an option if I wanted to try it out.”
“I’m just trying to make money after high school,” laughed Andrew. “I don’t see myself going to a community college. I see myself just working and maybe take a few training classes.”
“It was different. It’s a way to recognize going into the workforce, so other kids don’t just see it as you going straight to work for a business and that’s it – there’s no excitement from the public,” stated Ian. “There are benefits to this. I look at it as instead of spending money, going to college, and wasting that money, I can go right into the workforce and start making money now. That way later in life, if I decide to go to college, then I have money now instead of being in debt.” Ian also commented, “When I normally sit through something like today’s Workforce Signing Day, I would’ve thought ‘oh, it’s just another speaker, I don’t care, and I’m going back to class,’ but if students saw and heard events like today from previous students, then I think they would take it more personal coming from someone they knew.”
Each student signed their certificates that stated: “I promised on this 6th day of February 2019, to uphold my commitment to invest in my future by working following graduation.” The certificates were personalized with each student’s name and their future place of employment. Each student also received a Danbury pin with an anchor. All three seniors were asked to keep these as a reminder of how hard they worked to get where they are today and know that you have made your Danbury family so proud.
For more information about Ottawa County’s Workforce Signing Day or to learn about the Ottawa County Business Advisory Council, please visit www.ocic.biz/ocbac or call Jamie Beier Grant at 419-898-6242.