Guest Blogger Melanie Ledingham
Young Leader

Along with other members of United Way of Salt Lake Young Leaders, I had the opportunity to participate in this year’s Day of Caring. We were lucky enough to spend the morning with students at Granite Park Jr. High, as part of their career fair.

Assistant Principal, Renee DeHaan, kicked-off the day’s activities by meeting with us to share background information about the school’s history and its most recent struggles and successes. She explained that the majority of their students come from lower income families with most parents working more than one job to make ends meet. Many of the students don’t know anyone personally, other than their teachers, who have attended college. At the end of the 2008-2009 school year, Granite Park was selected to be one of 20 pilot schools world wide to implement AVID school-wide college-readiness program. Everything they do is focused on helping their students be ready for college and beyond.

Young Leaders then had the opportunity to visit classrooms to talk with the students about our careers. Students heard from professionals working in banking, law, marketing, computer programming and a wide variety of other careers. I was impressed by how intently the students listened and the thoughtful questions they asked. They seemed genuinely excited to learn about the possibilities for their own future and to learn what they need to do to prepare.

I am a property manager, so I started my presentation by asking, “How many of you live in a home or apartment that is rented?” I was surprised to see all but two hands go up. We talked about my typical day…showing properties, signing lease agreements, and resolving problems. I told them about our process for doing criminal and credit background checks to screen potential tenants. We discussed the importance of deciding now to stay out of trouble and pay bills on time so that future opportunities are not limited. The students asked questions about educational requirements and skills they should develop if they decided to pursue a career in my field.

My experience that day was truly rewarding. I returned to work feeling grateful for the parents, teachers, neighbors and other mentors, who encouraged me to stay in school, work hard, and make good choices. I’m proud to be a member of United Way of Salt Lake Young Leaders, and thankful for the opportunities it offers me to give something back.