School-to-work program finds success in Alcona

ALCONA — Several Alcona High School students are getting first-hand work experience, exploring career options and class credit thanks to a unique program.

Alcona Community School’s director of innovations and athletics, Tami Bonzheim, Alcona Community Schools’ director of innovations and athletics, updated the school’s board of education about the school-to-work program and share positive feedback received.

The program allows students to get credit for classes while working in fields of interest to them. By working with and in the community, students are able to explore careers that look good on paper and decide if its worth spending countless dollars and hours working toward.

“The goal is to get students to get real-life work experience and apply adcedemic and technical skills and employability skills,” Bonzheim said. “When it comes to employability skills, students work with community members and customers.”

Ten juniors and seniors are enrolled in the program, while some companies involved in the program include Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union and the Alcona Humane Society.

“One of the students struggled at the beginning and we saw a positive increase, in that they have better communication skills with adults,” she said. “They built that skill because they were able to work with adults in a work base situation.”

One student worked with Cole’s of Lincoln since the summer of 2016 and has since learned about the delivery department, developed customer service skills and had experiences as a service technician.

“I think that college is great, but it’s not for everyone,” Brad Cole, owner of Cole’s, said. “For people who would like to be a skilled worker we teach a skill trade that there is nothing required other than trade school training. We take a person right out of high school, and without going to college, they have the chance to intern with us to see if they have an interest.”

Cole said the business provides financial assistance for those who would like to learn service technician skills, an intern agreement can be made at low to no cost for commited employees.

“This program is a great way for people to go out and get ideas for something they want to do,” he said. “There is nothing more frustrating than for an employer to hire a person and get them up to speed, then have them turn around and say they don’t want to do it. We want them to like their job.”

Cole said he will need two interns next year for the service department and data input field.

“I thank the systems for doing work that they do which allow that to happen,” he said. “It has huge benefits to community and I recommend businesses looking for long term staff to work with these students.”

To enroll in the school to work program or for more information, contact Bonzheim at Alcona High School.

“We are now working with the local sheriff’s department to be able to put students in that, and teacher internship work base learning experiences,” Bonzheim said. “We are always looking to expand the program.”

The Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union works with two students from Alcona High School who are able to perform any position that a bank teller does — transfers, deposit money orders, cashier checks.

“It teaches them life experiences and it’s probably the first time they have gone to an interview,” Stacey Hall, Tiger Branch supervisor, said. “It teaches them job skills and how to deal with the public. And it teaches them how they can actually work and how everything is involved, not just swipe a debit card and money comes out.”

Beth Gohs can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693.