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Irvin shadows Main Street programs, businesses to benefit students through Career Corps

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

Lindsey Irvin’s students at Calera Intermediate School have quite the task at hand—to complete and submit a detailed business plan.

Irvin will have plenty of resources to help them do just that, as she was selected to participate in the Shelby County Career Corps—a program made possible by the Shelby County Chamber, 58INC. and CAWACO RC&D.

Career Corps provides educators like Irvin with a paid internship in business and industry to expose them to career pathways which are then applied in classroom lessons. For her internship July 13-15, Irvin shadowed the directors of Calera’s, Columbiana’s and Montevallo’s Main Street programs and also met with business owners in each city.

“The way that it has enhanced my understanding and ability to teach the kids, I would say it’s one of the most powerful professional development opportunities I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of,” said Irvin, a Gifted Resource Class teacher at CIS.

This year, Irvin will be teaching about innovation and entrepreneurship. In April and May of 2022, her fifth-graders will share business models that will include products, names, logos and other details. They are the same group of kids who did a Lego project based on the future potential of Calera’s historic business district two years ago. Since then, Calera’s Main Street program has helped to breathe new life into the area.

“They started two years ago learning this concept, and now they are going to be able to see how far we’ve come,” said Calera Main Street Executive Director Jackie Batson. “They will be able to take it a step further and learn about being an entrepreneur and starting a business. I personally just think it’s phenomenal how civic leaders and organizations can incorporate our children into the mix. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our whole community.”

As third graders, Irvin’s students visited some of the same places that have now blossomed into new Calera businesses. Following a lesson in economics, the students will visit local businesses and start developing their own small business ideas.

After meeting with Calera’s businesses and Main Street program, Irvin spent a day in Columbiana doing the same thing. Columbiana Main Street Director Brittany Davis said she was thankful for the opportunity and the deep level of community involvement in the Career Corps program.

“She was able to meet a lot of business owners, toured the Shelby County Arts Council building at Old Mill Square, and talked about programs her students could utilize,” Davis said. “I think that she left with a lot of great information, a lot of ideas she can take to her kids.”

Likewise, Montevallo Main Street Director Courtney Bennett said the meetings should prove fruitful in helping to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs. In turn, she explained, inspiring young students is important for the future of Shelby County’s communities.

“We were honored to showcase several of our downtown small business owners through the Career Corps program, and give them a platform to share their hard-earned expertise and wisdom,” Bennett said. “I hope that the creativity, tenacity, and flexibility of our business community is as much an inspiration for Ms. Irvin’s students as it is to me!”

Any educator may apply for Shelby County Career Corps, whether public or private, in the range of grades K-12. A total of 20 educators were chosen to participate in the program this year; the number chosen is based on the amount of grant funding.

Pari Barzegari, vice president of community and career development with the Shelby County Chamber, expressed thanks to each of the Main Street directors and said they were among the first commitments for educator placement this year.

“I know the time our Career Corps educator has spent with them has been beneficial, and I am excited to hear what she will bring back to her classroom in the fall,” Barzegari said.

In addition, Melody Whitten, director of development for 58INC., thanked CAWACO RC&D, through which grant funding for the project was possible.

“In an effort to continually address workforce needs in Shelby County, we are deeply engaged in workforce development initiatives and programming. Therefore, when this grant opportunity became available, we were excited to offer an avenue for educators to interact with business and industry so that they may experience the wide variety of career pathways that exist for their students and the skill sets needed to be successful in their future career,” said Whitten, adding, “I am extremely grateful to CAWACO for their support and hope we are able to identify additional means to continue the program in years to come.”

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