Steel company builds mentorship program with students


A more than 20-year partnership between nonprofit D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s and an area flat-rolled steel supplier is going “big.”

Grand Rapids-based Mill Steel Co. and D.A. Blodgett recently announced they have created a new workplace-mentoring program: Bigs in Business.

Mill Steel, which has spent two decades supporting D.A. Blodgett’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program, is the first company in West Michigan to be a part of the new Bigs in Business program.

The pilot program, which is also part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, will transport students to the corporate office to have one-on-one time with their assigned Mill Steel employee — aka their “big,” the same term used in college fraternities and sororities for Big Brother or Big Sister.

The “big” will then engage in educational and skill-building activities with the student.

“I believe this program will not only benefit the youth in our community, but also provide our company and associates with a true sense of pride in our outreach efforts,” said Pam Heglund, Mill Steel vice president of sales.

“We are so excited to launch and look forward to continuing the partnership in the future,” she said.

The main goals of the Bigs in Business program are to:

**Reinforce the importance of academics, vocational and social skill development.

**Expose youth to the world of work providing them with the skills necessary to reach their full potential.

**Inspire youth to see a future beyond high school.

“For the last 20 years Mill Steel has been an outstanding community partner and helped raised over $1.5 million dollars for Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Martha Boks, BBBS manager.

“Knowing their desire to serve the community, I knew they would be the perfect partner to pilot Bigs in Business with. We are grateful for their ongoing support and the difference they make in the lives of children.”

The first batch of students in the program hails from the East Kentwood Freshman Campus. Sixteen Mill Steel employees have been partnered with the students — the “littles” — who plan to visit Mill Steel every other week through the month of May.

The first visit was March 3, said Boks.

Although the program is still in its pilot phase, her hope is that the 16 littles will come back in the fall for more sessions. In the future, she’d also like to see more businesses and schools added to the program.

“We are pleased we’ve gotten it this far off the ground, but we have such strong partners,” she said. “Everything is coming together so nicely. … The students get an incredible experience.”

The students are expected to learn practical and personal skills required for the workplace from their Mill Steel bigs. This includes not only tasks such as how to write a résumé and problem solving, but also reliability, conscientiousness and communication skills.

The sessions open with a large group activity and then break off with the mentors and students, Boks said.

“We are extremely excited to be partnering with Mill Steel and their employees this spring. Anytime our students can be connected to the community and to positive adult role models, it has a significant impact on their lives,” said Michele Siderman, principal of East Kentwood Freshman Campus.

“It is often difficult for our young students to see how their education translates into the real world, and this experience will bring this to life for them. We are eager to see how this partnership grows in the future.”

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