PRINCE RUPERT – The business community of Prince Rupert, like that of many small cities has long faced the issue of losing its young people to larger centres once they graduate from college–leaving the city with a shortage of skilled young people.
Partly to address this issue, in 2005 the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce piloted a program in partnership with Northwest Community College called Rising Stars. Rising Stars matches students from the Northwest Community College and Charles Hays Secondary School with mentors in the business community.
The program introduces students to the local business community, to help them grow professionally, while showcasing the opportunities available for establishing careers or starting businesses without leaving the North Coast.
As Rising Stars is primarily a networking program, the students attend a number of Chamber networking events over a six-month period. Initially, they complete an application form and attend an interview. The program then kicks off with a dinner where the Rising Stars and their mentors get to know each other.
Thereafter, the students attend monthly guest speaker lunch meetings with their mentors, as well as other signature Chamber events. In addition to the networking events, one of the highlights for students is that the local Toastmasters club offers a weekend SpeechCraft workshop where students develop skills and confidence in their public speaking ability. At the end of the program students are given the opportunity to showcase their skills in a presentation in front of the other students, mentors and community leaders.
“Everyone is always amazed at the stellar improvement in the Rising Stars, particularly their increased confidence and public speaking skills. Our two bursary winners this year, Eric Martello and Jadda Wright personify everything that the Rising Stars program was meant to achieve. They were both very shy and very hesitant at the beginning of the program. By the end, they were holding audiences in the palm of their hand as they displayed skill beyond their years during their final presentations.
“Everyone at Chamber, NWCC and CHSS is proud to be associated with this wonderful program. If you want to find something tangible that Chamber does that makes a direct difference in our community I would unhesitatingly put the Rising Stars program forward as the standard bearer for what making a difference looks like,” said Keith Lambourne, Vice President of the Chamber and Chair of the Rising Stars Committee.
The Rising Stars are matched, wherever possible, with mentors experienced in the student’s area of interest. The result is that many students have the opportunity to gain insight into their intended careers that might not otherwise be available to them.
While the Chamber facilitates the program, Rising Stars is made possible entirely through the generous support and commitment, both financially and in kind, of the Chamber community. “TD is a proud Title Sponsor of the Rising Stars Program since its inception. Seeing the students’ development over the course of the program is a testament to their mentors and the experience,” said Phat Tran, Branch Manager for TD Prince Rupert.
This year the program alumni are joined by Angie Henry, Ariel McKenzie, Barb Lippke, Chelsea Jesser, Eric Martello, Jadda Wright, Jenny Huynh, McGhee Tomlinson, Titan McMaster and Yong Jing Fan.
That the program is successful is evidenced in the achievements of the students, several of whom have secured employment or started businesses through the contacts they made during the program.
“The Rising Stars program is Prince Rupert’s premiere mentorship program. We see many of these students succeeding in a big way, Aja Lihou teaches the business program at the high school, several students have become successful entrepreneurs and recently Alexandra Van Vianen was recognized with an outstanding international woman award in Qingdao, China.” Chamber President Rosa Miller shared.
“These students, be it high school or college students, gain valuable experience and the businesses and mentors themselves gain valuable insights. This is truly an opportunity for two-way learning.”
– Simone Clark is Manager of Communications of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 250-624-2296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.