The mission of Manhattan Christian School in Manhattan, Montana, is to “inspire students to live God-glorifying lives by teaching Christ’s lordship in faith, learning and living.” Recognizing that college is not the only avenue for fulfilling that mission, the school is providing an opportunity for seniors who may not be college bound to identify ways in which they can serve the Lord in the everyday work force.
This year, Manhattan Christian began offering its seniors a school-to-work program. Students have the option of being linked with area businesses and working there during the first two periods of the school day. The school currently has partnerships with five area businesses, including factories, a retirement home, and a car dealership.
Three students are rotating 12-week service opportunities between Bridger Steel, Danhof Chevy, Churchill Equipment, and Meyers Cabinet shop, getting a taste for what it would be like to work for these businesses full time. A fourth student has taken a semester-long placement at the retirement home. “They are assigned tasks determined by a liaison at the business,” said Patrick De Jong, the school’s superintendent. “We regularly check with the business on the progress and cooperation of the students as a means of assessment. They are awarded .5 elective credits per semester for their service, and they are not paid unless the business has some HR liability issues that need to be addressed.”
The program is a great choice for the participating students. One parent said, “For the first time in my child's high school career, I do not have to force him out the door in the morning. He looks forward to his day because he is using his hands and abilities for the first couple of hours of his school day.”
At least one student has been offered a position after graduation. “This is indeed exciting,” said De Jong, who would like to see the program expand its partnerships with two or three additional businesses in the coming year. A large plumbing business, a candy maker, and a pet grooming business have expressed interest in the program. “Businesses are willing to discuss this type of program because of the tremendous difficulties that they are having in finding and retaining good help,” said De Jong. “This is one way they can connect with potential long term employees with little risk.”
“We have 95 students in the high school,” said De Jong. “If we can place six students in this program, we are near the statistical percentage of students who do not desire to go to a four-year college. These students want to develop skills and work. This gives them that opportunity.”