Pratt businesses host 87 quad-county students to showcase employment opportunities.

When Payton Siebert of St. John and Tyler Long of Anthony walked into the Pratt Tribune office last month, part of a multi-county student mentoring event, they had no idea what to expect.
"I've always enjoyed photography and I just wanted to see if there could ever be a job that I might be able to do with that," Siebert said. "There was so much I didn't know about working for a newspaper. They always need photographers. I just would like to be part of something like that."
Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILAR) spokesperson Chelsey Rose, said that most of the 87 students who came to Pratt for Disability Mentoring Day on October 22 had a great time. The high school age students from four area counties (Stafford, Kiowa, Kingman and Pratt) were divided and sent to more than 40 area businesses, according to their interests. Some students had the chance to practice skills on the job, while others watched as employers demonstrated what they do on a daily or regular basis as part of their job.
"This is one of our most popular events all year," Rose said. "The kids just love coming here for this day. There is so much behind the scenes that they just aren't aware of, and the opportunities they see and the connections they make are invaluable."
PILAR and Southcentral Kansas Special Education Cooperative sponsors the annual event with the goal of increasing confidence for students and job seekers with disabilities. Disability Mentoring Day is designed to promote career development through hands-on career exploration, job shadowing and mentoring relationships.
At the Pratt Tribune office, those goals were met in the brief two hours that flew by for the participants. Though both came into the office shy and not sure of themselves, by the time they were collected for lunch, Siebert and Long had already been brainstorming effective headlines, practicing interview skills, learning about digital media and writing an introductory article.
Long said he learned that, though he has always wanted to be a writer, brushing up on spelling and keyboarding skills would be important before applying for a job. Siebert said she learned that her personality would probably fit right in a newspaper office environment and she enjoyed being part of something where she felt she fit in.
Similar experiences took place in 44 other business environments in Pratt.
"We would like to thank all of the businesses who participated in this event this," Rose said. "We owe a great deal of thanks to the employers who gave so generously of their time. We measure success one smile and one thank you from a student at a time. It was a very successful day."
Pratt-area businesses hosting students for the event included Peoples Bank, BTI, Signature Style, Dillons, Walmart, Parkwood Village, Southwest Truck Parts, 54 Express, Arrowhead West, Blythe Family Fitness, Bolen’s Office Supply, Bumper to Bumper, Creative Restorations, Deseret Rehab, Doug Reh, Pratt EMS, Pratt Fire Department, Pratt Law Enforcement, Gatlin Pharmacy, Home Lumber and Supply, KMMM Radio, Lisa’s Western Wear, Market 54, Main Street Auto, Maurice’s, Maydew Thiebault Optometry, Memories, Morgan Diesel, Pratt Auto, Pratt County Humane Society, Pratt Community College, Pratt Public Library, Pratt Tribune, Pratt Airport, PRMC, Rick’s Restaurant, South Fork Vet Clinic, Southwest Elementary, Sweet Repeats Thrift Store, Taylor Printing, The Flower Shoppe, Tractor Supply, Wheat State Signs, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Special sponsors for the day included The Peoples Bank, Walmart, BTI, RSVP, Pilot Club, Alliance Cooperative, First United Methodist Church.
The guest speaker was Darin Hedrick.
Disability Mentoring Day is a statewide event that takes place in several communities, involving more than 950 students and 260 businesses across Kansas each year.
Participants experience job shadowing, career and job fairs, local business tours, visits to technical schools and colleges, panel discussions and mini-workshops on resume’ building and interviewing skills.
Local coordinators like Rose have reported that students eyes are opened to the benefits and opportunities for education beyond high school. They are exposured to potential jobs or internships because of the program, and the mentees come out of the day with a broader understanding of what employment means and skills needed in their interest areas.