SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Dozens of high school and college students in the Santa Maria Valley sat down for a formal dinner Wednesday night with leaders and executives of local companies and organizations to share thoughts and ideas about the future.
"Its really an economic development revitalization for this valley as well as an educational reform project" said event organizer LeeAnne Del Rio.
The idea behind what organizers hope will become an annual event is to the bridge the gap between local employers looking to mentor students who may become future employees and those students looking to pursue a future career here in their hometown.
"It's a new way for students to interact with people that they would not usually be around", said Pioneer Valley High School student Kayla Alarcon who is looking to pursue a career in healthcare.
"As a a professional working with Dignity Health, I'm here to make sure we can answer the right questions", said Tim Rohan with Dignity Health, "to be able to help our future leaders and help with the students of our community to be able to perform and reach the goals that they are achieving or they want to achieve."
The student-industry collaboration dinner is another example of new, innovative ways local communities are using to engage, encourage, inspire and perhaps enlighten local youth at a pivotal time in their lives.
"We know that by partnering with business, we'll be able to produce high quality employees that will be a benefit to our business partners but also a benefit to our community", said Mark Richardson, superintendent of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.
"We're really shifting what we've ever done, breaking out of that standard, traditional, boring, lecture-style of teaching and getting the students involved", LeeAnne Del Rio said, "getting them certified and recognized, getting them the skills that the students need in order to be competitive."
Co-sponsors of the dinner include Leadership Santa Maria Valley, The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, Allan Hancock College, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and the California Department of Education.