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OPT-IN Program Celebrates Graduation

Fifteen Complete 8 Week Internship

Morganton, NC (August 8, 2022) – OPT-IN partners, interns, mentors, family and friends met Monday afternoon at COMMA to celebrate the graduation of the first 8-week internship program. Burke Development Inc. (BDI), Burke County Public Schools (BCPS), Work in Burke and Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC) brought it to a successful completion. Fifteen interns finished the entire term and were honored.

This new program is the culmination of a year-long effort by the partners to increase job opportunities, promote new skills and experiences for the interns and provide new contacts for local business and industry. The local businesses that participated in the program are: UNIX Packaging, UNC Health Care Blue Ridge, Leviton, Valdese Weavers, Shenandoah Furniture, Geiger, Seiren, Meridian and J. E. Ekornes. These companies represent a broad cross-section of our local business and industry and cover a large number of career opportunities. The interns were exposed to many prospects within the company they were partnered with and received 40 hours of classroom training that should help as they embark in new careers. Jodee Fulton, Senior Director for Human Resources at Valdese Weavers stated, “We enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of this initiative with Burke County Students in the Opt-in Program. We look forward to Valdese Weavers participating again in the future!”

Graduates of the program were: Alex Blair, Keyonna Avery, Caroline Hariyono, Korbin Xander Brooks, Chris Thames, Melena Vang, Daisy Davis, Nathan Hamilton, Denilson Morales, Nishari Lynch, Diamond Watkins, Richard Malave, Jeffrey Rivas, Solomon Yang and Jesus Socop. Each intern was paired with their business based on their interest in career fields.

The graduation ceremony was the conclusion of almost 12 months of effort to identify students that might be interested in an internship program, recruit industries to participate, establish goals for the process, create content for the class-room portion of the program, recruit mentors, match students with their business partners and then guide them through until completion. Rick Furse, Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education stated, “WPCC is very excited to be a sponsor of this ground-breaking program. Working with BDI, BCPS, and Work in Burke, we are planning to leverage the success we had this summer to create pathways for our Burke County students into rewarding careers in a wide range of companies.  Through OPT-IN, students can earn and learn their way to a good job and a bright future. Burke County has a lot to offer, and we are committed to helping our young folks match their interests up with a company that can help them achieve their goals.”

The program relied heavily on the efforts of staff from Burke County Public Schools, as they were the main point of contact with the students. Dr. Mike Swan, Superintendent of Burke County Public Schools said, “This is a perfect example of a community partnership. Everyone involved worked towards a common goal: creating new opportunities for the interns and local businesses and the results were exceptional.”

Burke Development Inc. worked to coordinate the process from the beginning, striving to bring all the partners together and working to verify the plausibility of the effort. Alan Wood, President and CEO of BDI stated, “There are many opportunities available in our community. This effort, and what follows has the potential to open new doors and expand cooperation with not only the partners that participated in the OPT-IN program this year but to expand it markedly as we approach the new school year.”

Work-in-Burke managed most of the day-to-day efforts, including creating the content for the classroom work, recruiting and training the mentors and providing much needed follow-up and the effort moved forward. Sarah Crisp, Director of Work-In-Burke, provided the following comments, “We got the opportunity to develop relationships and explore soft-skills that are essential for navigating life after high school. Lastly, each intern received a community mentor who was there as a support and motivator throughout the entire program. It’s been so exciting to see each intern grow and discover what they are interested in over the last 2 months together. I’m very proud of them!”

This is the first effort of its kind in Burke County and it is planned that the lessons learned this year will allow the partners to create a larger, more inclusive effort starting this fall. Chris Thames, one of the 15 graduating interns summed it up best, “I am very excited to have this opportunity and would absolutely recommend it to other graduates in the future.”

About Burke Development, Inc.

Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) is a nonprofit organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, government agencies and other entities to facilitate expansion strategies for existing businesses and recruit target industries to Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.



Alan Wood, President and CEO, Burke Development Inc.

Tel: 828-764-1818

Email: alan@burkedevinc.com

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