Opportunity Partners expand 2005 Career Camp

When you think of summer camp, you usually picture exploring nature and writing letters home – not exploring careers and writing resumes. But a summer program at Opportunity Partners has students in transition studying the world of work – and getting excited about it!

Opportunity Partners, a Twin Cities nonprofit that provides job placement, education and residential services to people with disabilities, launched Career Camp in summer 2004 with the support of several local sponsors. It plans to expand the program to four sessions in summer 2005 with locations in both Hennepin and Anoka counties.

“Teachers and parents indicated to us a need for structured activities for students in transition during the summer break,” said Julie McGinley, manager of transition services at Opportunity Partners. “At Career Camp, we call it ‘Career Training in Disguise’ because you can learn about careers and have fun, too.”

The camp, geared for students ages 16-21, is exciting because it offers something new each day for students. The camp covers many activities such as filling out job applications and successful interviewing techniques. It also includes tours of companies throughout the community. “The employers share with our students what they are looking for when they make a hiring decision, and how to make the best impression during an interview,” McGinley said. “We are fortunate to have supportive employers who are eager to help with a project such as this.”

Last summer’s tours included ECMC Group, Seasonal Concepts’ corporate distribution center, Fairview Southdale Hospital, US Bank, Minnesota Public Radio, Classic Provisions, Inc., and the U of M Raptor Center.

Jayne Spain, transition specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, said, “I believe this is an incredible program for youth and want to support it as best I can.”

In addition to visiting local companies, students discuss what types of jobs appeal to them and their career goals. “We use a game show model for an activity that teaches job concepts, and we do an exercise where the students play the role of a manager critiquing applicants who are really staff dressed up – some appropriately, some not so appropriately,” McGinley said. “Students learn professional attire is important in making a good impression.”

The students who participated last summer found the experience fun and informative, McGinley said. “My favorite thing at Career Camp is going to other work sites because it gives you some ideas about different jobs,” said Sean Maher, who was a camper last summer. Camper Laura Casey added, “Career Camp was so much fun! I learned so much from going on the different field trips. I learned what jobs I might be interested in doing.”

The cost for Career Camp is $400-$600 per session, depending on staff support required. The camps run Monday through Thursday for two weeks (eight days total from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and will be based out of Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka and Crooked Lake Branch Library in Coon Rapids. Transportation options are available.

Sponsors of Career Camp include the Patrick and Alice Rogers Family Fund of the St. Paul Foundation, SUPERVALU Foundation, St. Louis Park Community Foundation, Kopp Family Foundation, Richfield Rotary Foundation, Rosemount, Inc., and Lieberman-Okinow Foundation.

Opportunity Partners’ Career Camp will hold an information day with activities for potential campers on Monday, Jan. 17 (Martin Luther King Jr. holiday) from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka. Reservations are required. Contact Julie McGinley at 952-930-4277 or via email at jmcginley@opportunities.org. More information on Opportunity Partners is available at www.opportunitypartners.org.