COVID-19 brought one good thing to Mar’shawn Vaughn’s life: a perfect
Vaughn, a 2020 graduate of Auburn High School,
participated in a pilot program last spring that allowed him to intern in the
Rockford Public Schools’ Transportation Department. The goal of the pilot was
to expose Vaughn to the variety of work maintaining the district’s 250 vehicles.
The work ranges from auto body fabricating to repairing and rebuilding diesel
engines on school buses.
The internship was just getting rolling when the
COVID-19 pandemic hit. Rather than introducing the variety of work the
Transportation Department does, Vaughn’s internship was targeted to the basics
of welding. Welding was something he was good at and had an interest in. “I’m
not saying it’s easy, but it comes easy to me,” he said.
As a result, Vaughn – who was in Auburn’s
Production Academy and transportation technology pathway – will enter a 16-week
welding program at Rock Valley College in November. Jobs in the field are the
stable, long-term positions he wants, commanding wages of $18 to $35 an hour.
Bill Fare, RPS 205 senior shop manager, had employability
in mind when he broached the topic of high school students doing internships in
his department. “What a way to expand on these students’ knowledge, actually
working with a mechanic,” Fare said.
He sees a mechanic as
a natural teacher; a jack of all trades who uses problem-solving and critical thinking regularly.
Another bonus? At the end of the internship, the student could be job-ready:
The department could make recommendations to local dealerships or service
shops. Even a new mechanic could make $50,000 a year, according to Fare.
The internship also taught the soft skills of
work – showing up on time, paying attention, communicating with coworkers and
Vaughn was eager to participate last year when
his teacher, Jason Andrews, mentioned the internship opportunity in an advanced
automotive class. “When we presented it to the class,” Andrews said, “he
responded to it immediately. His hand shot up and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to do
that.’ He took it and ran with it.”
His enthusiasm would only take him so far.
Vaughn called himself a lost soul when he started the internship. But working
closely with district mechanic Joe Zimmerman was a turning point – and not just
because of the welding. He learned other things: “The way you talked. The way
you carried yourself. He just taught me everyday life lessons, the way a real
job would actually work,” Vaughn said. The impact on Vaughn was powerful. He
told the Auburn staff the internship motivated him to come to school. He also
discovered a passion that could translate into well-paying work. “It felt like
easy money,” he said.
Bill Fare doesn’t intend to let the pandemic
stand in the way of giving other students hands-on lessons. He would like to
outfit district mechanics with body cameras and offer remote instruction that
could be read by a narrator. (The shop is too loud to offer audio-enabled
“This is my chance – and some of my staff’s
chance – to really have a positive impact on our community,” Fare said.
The Those Who Excel program recognizes employees who demonstrate excellence in their jobs and go above and beyond their regular duties.
It's been a month since we reopened our schools and began this unprecedented year.
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Access to ClassLink for all remote students has been restored.
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