Members of the McDowell Workforce Pipeline recently visited McDowell Academy for Innovation (MAI) to see firsthand some of the work going on the school.

Forty business and education leaders attended the vent in October. The luncheon started off with a business meeting and the members, made up of local industry, schools, agencies and businesses, ate with student ambassadors during the first part of the meeting. The luncheon was provided by Steve Bush, executive director of McDowell Chamber of Commerce.

After the meeting, student ambassadors gave the visitors a tour of the school.

“I was very impressed with the students and how they have taken ownership of the school,” Bush said. “I also liked the concept of how the students were being taught in small groups.”

He especially enjoyed the English II class which was studying the Holocaust and the computer class which was discussing information technology.

Lisa Ellis, Human Resource Officer at ABB said even though she expected the class size to be small in the school’s first year, she still felt surprised by it. The engagement of the students in a timeline project impressed her in one class.

After touring, student ambassadors spoke about topics such as innovation and passion projects, the school’s partnerships with NCSSM (North Carolina School of Science and Math) and McDowell Technical Community College, career exploration and job shadowing.

Sy Wells, who is a sophomore, presented his passion project to the visitors. It involves teaching people at the high school how to ride a skateboard. He calls it “Drop In, Not Out.”

When asked why he chose the project, he said, “Skateboarding could help other people in the future. Skateboarding works as a stress reliever and helps people get their mind off personal issues.”

Following the Workforce Pipeline luncheon experience, Wells felt he created a bond with the visitors when he discovered they had struggles trying to become successful in life.

McDowell High School will host the next Workforce Pipeline luncheon in December. The Workforce Pipeline is a collaborative effort among local businesses, agencies and community leaders to educate the public at large, from students to adults, about local opportunities in manufacturing.

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