Bear Tracks to educate this June


Shawnee State University is working with the GRIT Project to produce workforce and educational opportunities for students this summer with their Bear Tracks program.

The residential program will welcome students to campus for a three to four week stay, where they will learn skills that lead to professional development, opening doorways to new career fields.

One of the community leaders behind the project is Amanda Hedrick, director of Campus Partnerships and Center for Lifelong Learning, of Shawnee State University.

Hedrick has been working with GRIT for the last 18 months to provide workforce development training based on future plans assessments completed by area high schools.

“They go in, perform the assessments, and determine what career pathways are appropriate for the students based on their skills, talents, and interests,” Hedrick explained. “They then communicate those findings with me, and we determine what career pathways we need to be looking at and what workforce development trainings we need to be putting together to align with those results.”

Last year, Hedrick was one of the community leaders to pilot the first Bear Tracks training program. They welcomed over 50 students to the summer camp. According to Hedrick, the program was a major success with real life impacts on young professionals and students. With the success of the program, they have been working hard to replicate the program a second year with more opportunities and a wider impact with, hopefully, double the students participating.

“We are offering it again, due to the success of the first year. So, on June 5, we will be welcoming students from 13 different counties in Appalachia and southern Ohio to campus,” Hedrick said. “They come and stay on campus the entire course of the program, earn a credential, and then we work with partners to get them hired in the fields in which they’re now credentialed.”

The program will also feature a career fair on June 20, where area employers visit with participants, collect resumes, and be exposed to the young workforce.

“Not only are we working with students to earn these credentials to get them employed, but we are also providing the career fair where students will be on campus already, so we make it easy on them by bringing employers directly to them,” Hedrick said. “We are helping them with interview prep, resume prep, and, in some cases, taking them shopping for interview attire for those without anything like that so they are better prepared for those next steps. It gives them a great level of confidence.”

Careers aren’t the only offering the program has, with professional development internships also being built into the formula.

“We are also providing internship opportunities that are paid,” Hedrick explained. “I think a lot of students have to work, because they need to make money, they have a car payment, and all of that. They’ll actually get paid to participate in all of this, because it is a barrier we are trying to eliminate and make this as easy as possible.”

Hedrick says that her job is very rewarding and one aspect of the job she loves is getting to witness change happening in the lives of participating students.

“I’ve talked with several students who participated last year, and they’ve said to me ‘I didn’t think this was possible. I didn’t think I was college material. I didn’t think I would like it,’” Hedrick recalled. “When I hear students say they didn’t think college was for them, they didn’t have anyone believe in them or invest in them, but this program made them realize they can do more than ever possible, it tells me of its success.”

Shawnee State is a perfect incubator for programming like Bear Tracks and Hedrick says they go above and beyond in providing opportunities for students, even if they aren’t pursuing a traditional college education in the immediate future.

“Shawnee State University is an amazing place with a lot of resources that can wrap arms around students. We are doing the same thing for those students who aren’t only going after those two-year or four-year degrees, but we’re trying to get students where they are today, providing those stepping stones to what is next,” Hedrick claimed. “Maybe a degree is more than what they think they can handle at this time, so, let’s start with a certificate or credential and then explore additional pathways.”

A variety of participants enroll in the program, but Hedrick says that the program strives to provide success for all of them. She recounted some examples.

“We had one guy who was working as an UBER Eats delivery driver and he is now working with our local ESC, providing tech support for school districts throughout Scioto County. That is amazing,” Hedrick said. “We had another student who wanted to work in healthcare, but he didn’t think that he could be a nurse or doctor and didn’t apply to college. He wasn’t going to. After this program, he realized he could get a bachelor’s degree and could be a professional in that field one day. We surround them with all the support they’ve not had previously, and they realize they need to dream bigger for themselves.”

Hedrick said that the student interested in healthcare started with a phlebotomy credential, then went to get an EKG credential, before working on his CCMA. He is now planning on attending SSU to pursue a BSN with bigger aspirations.

“One thing led to the next and it was a little confidence boost that is leading him to bigger things. We told him that he could continue and do bigger things, and he was shocked. However, for a student in high school to earn three credentials, tells me he has the work ethic, drive, and discipline to do great things. So, we are just showing him he shouldn’t box himself in, because anything is possible,” Hedrick said. “I’ve had the opportunity to present certificates and credentials and I’ve talked with family members who tear up, because they’re like, ‘We knew he was special, but he is our kid, so we didn’t know.’ I tell them that I work with a lot of students and these students are standout students, but they’ve not had these resources and support. That’s what Bear Tracks is doing for these students. It is making education attainable and realistic.”

The training tracks include Healthcare, Phlebotomy; Healthcare, Basic EMT; Business, Social Media for Business and Microsoft Office; Education, Child Care Staff Member; Technology, IT Desktop Support Specialist; and Manufacturing, CPT 4.0 Safety and Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt.

Students can register at

All students are eligible for full scholarships through the GRIT Project. For private pay students, the program cost is $2,250 for 3-weel courses and $3,000 for 4-week courses.

For businesses wishing to enroll in the career fair, reach out to Angie Duduit at Shawnee State University.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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