The Mentoring Hour: Find Your Future 

Ava Stuzin, News Editor

High school students often find themselves questioning what they want to do after graduation, considering a variety of career and college major paths. In an effort to and combat this dilemma, Miami Palmetto Senior High School Principles of Entrepreneurship teacher, Dr. Caroline Raffington, through the Youth Career Institute, launched the Mentoring Hour. The program runs as a one-hour meeting every Monday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., over Zoom, giving high school students a chance to learn from experienced career professionals as they navigate and narrow down their career choices.   

“Last week, we had a really dynamic speaker from the district who spoke about using internships as one of the tools to really figure out what they like or do not like about certain careers. And so we are really excited to have students joining to learn more [about their futures],” Raffington said.

Students from all over South Florida attend these weekly Zoom sessions in hopes of learning more about their options and finding their future in order to become career ready.

“Because of the spread, it’s really more condensed even for the speakers to connect; we find people are more willing to share within the time frame. We’re working towards a few in-person events. And so once we have those, we’ll put them out so that students might join as well,” Raffington said.

After launching the meetings in January, the Mentoring Hour has seen a steady amount of students join but is continuously working to increase this number.

“We have been reaching out to schools and after-school programs, to get kids interested in joining up. It is something new and so I wouldn’t say it was popular, but then I’m hoping to build as we go along to get students to attend,” Vice President of the Youth Career Institute Dianna Morell said.

The Youth Career Institute’s main goal is to help the youth prepare for their future outside of school hours.

“[The Youth Career Institute] is all about mentoring students. And so by throwing ideas around, we decided to create this program to enable students to get themselves into a trusting environment to gain access to essential resources that would help them navigate their way towards college and their careers,” Morell said.

One of the most important aspects of the program are the speakers who leave a memorable and inspirational impact on students that allows them to think about their future.

“[Our first speaker], the new president and CEO of United Way, accepted our invitation to speak. And I was humbled by the fact that she took the time and her delivery was personal, she spoke about her beginning as a little girl raised by a single mother, and she advanced to Harvard School of Business. And so just to be able to share that innermost experience with our students. And all the speakers we’ve had have been great,” Raffington said.

On average, around 30 students attend each Zoom session and participate actively by asking questions \ about the topic of the day, which can range from finding internships to how to apply for scholarships.

“Normally, we have a guest speaker each week and they will talk about a different topic. It’s a different class. The guest speaker usually will ask questions and [ask the students] ‘do you have questions?’ and this is how we get students to participate and they find it very interesting because, you know, the speakers are giving them information that will help them later on, and the guest speakers are usually telling them [about] their path getting to where they are. And so they usually find that quite interesting. And [the speakers] also are giving them information on how to build a portfolio and financing,” Morell said.

After teaching fashion marketing at her first school and hosting fashion shows with the help of her community partners, Raffington became influenced after one of the models in the show went on to become a model with the help of the community partner after gaining exposure in the force.

“I get so motivated because I follow one of those students to this day. This is like 15 years ago, she became a model, the person who partnered with me to do the fashion show really saw her potential. I think she was probably in grade 10 at the time and got a professional package for her photo shoot, and I think that really pushed her. So the last few weeks I saw she was in New York and she’s launched her own line of products. And in my mind, had she not had that exposure, she probably may have been delayed in realizing that dream. So it’s that kind of connection that I’m passionate about; making sure that students see when they can become[in the future], learn the different careers, and be the best they can be,” Raffington said.

MPSH students are not the typical audience of the Mentoring Hour sessions, as Raffington’s class already addresses and teaches students about the fundamentals necessary for their future.

“A career assessment is already a part of my curriculum. So, what I would like to be able to do is to reach students who are not my students, because I feel they cannot all take my business class, but they may need to get a summer internship, they may need to get a year-long internship or they may need to just learn how to write a resume,” Raffington said.

In Raffington’s Business Entrepreneurship class, students not only learn key business and marketing concepts but skills that allow them to excel in their future.

“We do these programs called Knowledge Matters, and it helps us learn about the different types of information we need for our certification exam. And they use videos to help us learn [along with] interactive material [to help us] take in all the information. The class overall helps us prepare for our future because [Dr. Raffington] teaches us about all the different characteristics and things we need to find internships for over the summer,” MPSH sophomore and Business Entrepreneurship student Grace Silberberg said.

Taking the Business Entrepreneurship class, Silberberg feels more prepared for her future.

“I feel very prepared for my future by taking the class because it teaches me all these different skills that I will take and use in life, especially during internships,” Silberberg said.