It’s a little after 1:00 p.m.
While most students at Carlsbad High School are knee-deep in classroom instruction, 17-year-old Kayla Schwertner is busy helping run the mayor’s office at city hall. Just an hour prior, however, her attention was focused on her economics class.
Kayla is a second-year BPA (Business Professionals of America) student with aspirations of studying physical therapy in college and eventually opening her own practice.
According to the organization’s website, the name BPA is derived from three different aspects:
• Business – The field for which students are prepared. It emphasizes the organization’s efforts to educate its members to work efficiently not only in an office setting but also in a wide variety of business situations.
• Professionals – Students are offered a wide variety of professional development opportunities as part of their affiliation with the organization.
• America –The use of “America” in their name symbolizes pride in country and its free enterprise business system.
In addition to BPA, Kayla is actively involved in student council and honor society. She credits BPA, however, with providing her the hands-on experience and knowledge that she anticipates will help her adjust to life after high school and in her post-college career. On any given day, BPA students are learning presentation skills, studying about taxes, researching colleges and cost-of-living statistics, and perhaps most importantly, they are learning how to apply for, interview for, and obtain a paying job.
“Your sophomore year you apply (for BPA) and classes start your junior year,” Kayla explained. “We learn about job etiquette, how to get the job, skills you will need, and then your senior year is when you start working.”
Before the beginning of her senior year, Kayla and the other BPA students were asked to list their internship preferences from a group of possible internships available. Various local entities offer the paid internships. However, just like in the real world, students must first apply for the jobs and then be hired. And also like the real world, there is stiff competition for each job.
“Our teacher (Francis McCoy) taught us how to fill out an application, so we bring in a resume and completed application and they set up a time to interview,” she noted. “We also learned about the etiquette of follow-up letters because they show you are interested in the job, so we write those as well. There are only certain jobs available, so there’s competition for the jobs we can choose from.”
Number one on Kayla’s list of desired employers was the City of Carlsbad; more specifically, she hoped to be hired as an assistant in the mayor’s office. Much to her delight, she applied and was hired, and she wasted no time jumping in and getting to work. She spent her last summer of high school working full-time for the City. After the school year began, she transitioned back into being a part-time student/part-time employee. Her days begin at 7:45 a.m. with BPA class during zero-hour. Regular school begins at 8:45, when she heads to pre-calculus for first hour. That is followed by anatomy and physiology for second hour, English for third hour, and finally, economics for fourth hour. Her school day ends at 12:30 p.m., when she heads home to grab some lunch and change into her “professional attire.” From 1:30 to 5 p.m. she is on the clock for the City, where she works under Cheyenne Methola in the mayor’s office. Methola serves as an assistant to Mayor Dale Janway, and Kayla’s responsibilities include assisting Methola in ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible.
While a typical day in the mayor’s office for Kayla might include loads of filing, shredding and running copies, most recently they turned things up a notch with the preparation for the 2015 Southeastern New Mexico Mayors’ Energy Summit featuring famed oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and Governor Susana Martinez. The annual event drew a large crowd with this year’s numbers exceeding 1,300 in attendance.
“It was complete chaos around here for a couple of weeks before the summit,” she joked. “I wasn’t even dealing with regular office work; it was all work for the summit. The Friday before the summit we stayed here until 10 doing name tags. Monday I got excused from school so I could go to the energy summit and help.”
Some of her duties during the summit included talking to the speakers and informing them of everything that would be going on; handing out gifts to each speaker; and other assignments as they came up. “I got to meet Susana Martinez (governor of New Mexico) and T. Boone Pickens, so that was really neat,” she added in excitement. The event proved to be a valuable learning tool for the high school senior and will likely make an impressive addition to her resume.
When school is not in session or students are released early, you won’t find Kayla sleeping in until noon and hanging out with her friends all afternoon. Instead you’ll find her hard at work in the mayor’s office. “I work three-and-a-half to four hours per day, but some days we get off earlier because of early-out, and some days we don’t have school, either for certain holidays or for teacher in-service, so I come in from 8-5 like a normal job,” she shared. Like most jobs, the more she works, the more she is compensated. It might only be a minimum wage job, but for a 17-year-old high school student, the money can add up quickly if she works hard.
Outside the classroom, Kayla enjoys drawing and attending her family’s sporting events, and she finds great joy in attending NASCAR races with her grandparents. She especially looks forward to traveling with them twice a year to the races in Dallas at the Texas Motor Speedway. After high school she plans to attend Texas Tech University, where she hopes to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business management, followed by a master’s degree in physical therapy.
“The business part of it will help me with opening my own physical therapy business,” she speculated.
Currently, BPA students are learning how to apply to colleges, and in the spring semester they will begin applying for scholarships. “Mrs. McCoy will help us with essays and show us how to find scholarships,” Kayla remarked. “We are on computers every day. She taught us all of the programs, and it helped a lot.”
When asked about her overall feelings regarding BPA, there was no hiding her affection. “It’s such a cool program! I love it so much!”
Read even more great stories in this edition of Focus on Carlsbad.
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