IN PHOTO: Mike Beatty (center), President and CEO of Great Promise Partnership, presented the first-ever Cornerstone Community designation to Valdosta during a public event on Nov. 28. Accepting the award are GPP partners (from left) Human Resources Director Mark Wilson of Langdale Industries, Chef Joel Cologne of the Rainwater Conference Center, City Manager Larry Hanson, Mayor John Gayle, VHS Principal Dr. Janice Richardson, VHS Assistant Vice Principal Chris Chastain, Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason, and Wild Adventures General Manager Molly Deese.
Mike Beatty, President and CEO of Great Promise Partnership, named Valdosta as the first Cornerstone Community in Georgia on Nov. 28 for their commitment to providing an educated and well-trained workforce and for achieving the Four Cornerstones of GPP Success, which are Political Leadership, Educational Leadership, Business Leadership and Community Leadership.
“I’m proud to present this award to Valdosta as the first community in our state—and what will also be the first in the nation—as we seek to develop this program across the country,” said Beatty, who will meet in December with representatives from 13 other states. “It’s all four corners coming together to create a climate of success for our young people.”
Beatty, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, had a dream to help young people succeed by offering them up to two years of employment, job training, and an income as an incentive to finish high school. In 2013, Valdosta became the first community to embrace the program. Now in its fourth year, the GPP partners include Wild Adventures, Langdale Industries, Valdosta City Schools, City of Valdosta, eLead, and the Rainwater Conference Center.
“This is a proud accomplishment for our community, and we hope to grow these opportunities in our area for more young people to participate,” said Valdosta Mayor John Gayle. “This is a public/private partnership, made up of various industries in our community, who are doing the right thing and the best thing for our youth—and that is teaching them the fundamentals of success.”
Paris Cole, a senior at VHS, said it is more than just earning a paycheck. Some things, she said, money just cannot buy.
“I have appreciated the experience of working in the Human Resource Department at the city and the advice on how to get along in the ‘real world’,” said Cole. “I have come out of my shell and have learned some important job skills and how to better interact with adults.”
Students work part-time around their school schedules, gaining real-world experience and job training while also earning a paycheck. The program, with a 98 percent success rate, is having a significant impact. In fact, since its inception, more than 300 graduates from the 30 different locations across the state have graduated and have either gone on to college, into the military or into the workforce full time.
“This is a great program, and it is a great promise for young people who apply themselves, set goals, complete their education and prepare themselves for a successful future,” said Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson. “We are proud to be the first local government in the state to participate as a GPP partner and proud to be a part of this collaborative commitment to our youth and their future.”
The City of Valdosta employs students in several city departments, such as Engineering, Planning and Zoning, Inspections, Permits, Finance, Main Street, Public Information, Human Resources, Neighborhood Development and Police. The local government organization plans to hire additional interns to work in the Public Works Department’s recycling division, as well.
Wild Adventures, who employ hundreds of high school students throughout the year, is a proud GPP partner.
“Why wouldn’t we support this program? What could be better than a workforce that is readily available to us and that has the support of the school system and the community behind it? You couldn’t ask for a better situation,” said Wild Adventures General Manager Molly Deese.
With 1,300 employees scattered over 23 affiliate companies, Langdale Industries is also witnessing many benefits from the GPP program. Human Resource Director Mark Wilson said the GPP program fits into their aggressive workforce development process.
Many of their staff members will likely be retiring in the next five to seven years. The company works closely with the school system to provide part-time employment that helps pave the foundation for work ethics while providing real growth opportunities for local youth.
“Valdosta’s commitment to an educated and well-trained workforce is a model that we hope other communities across Georgia will follow,” said Beatty. “It is paramount that other communities follow Valdosta’s lead by encouraging public and private sectors to join in their support of student success, which is truly a win-win for all involved and a necessity for our shared future.”
For more information on GPP, please visit www.gppartnership.org.