Middle schoolers get life and career lessons from Walmart mentors

Students in Brenda Paschal’s class at Fuquay-Varina Middle School smiled and laughed as they flipped through glossy magazines one day in December. They were asked to snip out images from the magazines that reflected the lifestyles they wanted to have as adults.

They perused ads for high-end products and photos of expansive homes and successful celebrities.

The lesson for many of the students: they’ll have to continue their education and likely earn a college degree in order to have the lives they want.

The students were asked to envision their futures by volunteers from the Mi Futuro mentoring program, a new collaboration this year between two Wake County middle schools and area Walmart retail stores.

Through the program, 8th-grade students spend an hour each month working through college and career planning activities with regional Walmart managers and assistant managers.

“Any time we can bring real world experience into the classroom, it’s a good thing,” says Principal Mark Holley. “Here, they talk with professionals who have been in their seats and who know what it takes to be successful. They’re getting real life stories.”

The Walmart managers mentor the students as a class of up to 25 students. They work with students to help explore their talents, their career interests, and the education they’ll need to achieve their goals, including what courses they’ll need to take in high school.

“I want to get a good job in the future,” says 13-year-old Jorge. Talking with the mentors has made him think ahead to college. He thinks they can help him learn “how to be an example to other people and help people.”

The store employees who visit the classroom are hoping to encourage students to dream of their potential, especially those who might be the first generation in their family to pursue college.

“We want to motivate them to be everything they could possibly be—to help them take control of their own destiny and see what their future could be,” said Scott Hall, assistant manager at the Walmart in Fuquay-Varina.

Interacting with the students helps the management staff become better leaders, too, he said. “We gain as much from them as they get from us.”

Students will participate in a graduation ceremony in the spring. Eighth-grade students at Durant Road Middle School are also participating in the Mi Futuro mentoring program at their school.

This story is part of a series on WCPSS mentoring programs and opportunities during the month of January, which is National Mentoring Month. Students interested in connecting with a mentor may contact their school counselor for more information. For more information on how to volunteer in a school, contact the school or read more on our website.

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