Butler County program that helps students find careers looks to expand

Somerville resident Matthew Marcum operates a program that helps high school students explore career fields while also learning to build friendships with adult mentors and others around them.

In the program, students pair with mentors and start a process that helps them choose between careers they may enjoy. At first, they take monthly outings with the mentors to build relationships. Around December, they take assessments that help find several careers that match their personalities.

After that, based on their assessments, they, their families and mentors attend a workshop where they consider “job pathways.” In January, the students meet with their mentors and explore some of those job pathways, the education requirements, pay levels and aspects of the jobs before picking two or three top choices.

The students and mentors later make field visits to meet professionals where they work, exploring those jobs.

The program started in Butler County but is called Mentoring Partners of Cincinnati because Marcum plans to grow it into a regional program.

“We have students going with their mentors to blue-collar settings, and being with construction-company owners, welders, visiting Butler Tech,” Marcum said.

Or they may meet with radiologists, physical therapists or others, in medical fields, for example One student he mentored went to GE Aviation and spent time with an engineer, who explained how jet engines had been improved through a century of progress.

That student, Atharva Rao, who last school year was a high-school sophomore, was impressed by the GE Aviation engineer’s passion for design, but understood he didn’t have that same excitement. Instead, he learned he was more intrigued by the work of a radiologist.

“Atharva got more and more curious about exploring it more,” Marcum said. So he later set a goal of shadowing the radiologist in his clinic for a day, watching him perform biopsies and other procedures.

Through the rest of their high-school careers, they continue learning about careers they like, while Marcum hopes they also will build their friendships with the mentors and focus on improving other relationships with adults around them.

“If we’re bringing nothing else to the lives of students, their families and mentors, we’re bringing a very high-quality, intentional relationship,” said Marcum, a 1997 Fairfield High School graduate who worked 15 years as a nurse in the hospice industry. “But we really want to be a part of helping students find out: Who am I going to be after I step out of high school, as far as my relationships, my academic-career pursuits, and even spirituality and values?”

In addition to helping youth find careers, Marcum said, “This program’s a lot about breaking generational cycles: abuse, neglect, poverty, relational brokenness.”

“If they don’t graduate from our program equipped to walk out the process for the rest of their life without our program, then we haven’t done them a good job,” he said.

Marcum creates partnerships with companies and organizations that lend his organization mentors, and that also refer children and grandchildren as students who could use mentors.

He saw a lot of need for students who could use mentors, but has been very encouraged by the number of people willing to help the students, he said.

“If I hadn’t had people rally to the cause, this vision would have been gone a long time ago,” he said.

He can be reached at


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