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Student finds success in apprentice program

Photo by Johnny Jackson
McDonough resident, Kallai Ward (from left), a 2008 Ola High School graduate, meets with Henry County Schools' Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Coordinator Sharon Bonner, regarding Ward's completion of the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

Photo by Johnny Jackson McDonough resident, Kallai Ward (from left), a 2008 Ola High School graduate, meets with Henry County Schools' Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Coordinator Sharon Bonner, regarding Ward's completion of the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

At 20 years old, Kallai Ward may be years ahead of some of her peers.

The 2008 Ola High School graduate has three years of on-the-job experience. And by this fall, she said she expects to earn her real estate sales license and graduate from Gordon College with an associate degree in business administration.

"I feel very fortunate to already have my plans in place," said Ward, a part-time leasing consultant at a local apartment community.

Ward said she has been able to fast-track her career with the aid of the Georgia Youth Apprenticeship Program, which she began in her senior year of high school.

"It was just a way of getting a head start in life," explained the aspiring Realtor.

Ward said she learned in December 2009 that she met the requirements for completing the state program, an extensive on-the-job training program for high school students.

The program is facilitated through the Henry County school system's Work-based Learning Program, which offers students an opportunity to gain experience and on-the-job training while enrolled in high school.

The Youth Apprenticeship Program, however, requires students to complete 144 classroom hours of related academic instruction and training, at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, and a post-secondary certification or degree, according to Henry County's Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Coordinator Sharon Bonner.

Bonner said the program typically requires a commitment of one to four years beyond high school graduation, before it is completed.

"It's been several years since we've had a student stay with us long enough to become a Youth Apprenticeship Program completer," Bonner added.

Ward is one of a dozen high school graduates from Henry County taking part in the Youth Apprenticeship Program in their post-secondary studies. Bonner added that there are also 17 high school seniors in the school system, of more than 300 work-based learning students, currently gaining on-the-job training through the Youth Apprenticeship Program.

"The program gives them an opportunity to start their career early and it allows them to leave -- when they get their post-secondary degree -- and already have that experience in hand," Bonner said. "[For Ward,] it shows future employers that she began a program and she stuck with it."

Ward said she began her post-secondary schooling at Gordon College during the fall of 2008, where she is majoring in business in order to advance her career in property management and real estate.

Ward continues to work part time through the Youth Apprenticeship Program, as a leasing consultant. She plans to earn her Real Estate Professionals License by this June, and graduate from Gordon's business program by the fall.

Ward's long-term ambition, though, is to work her way toward owning her own real-estate firm. She said her goal is to become a district manager for a property management team, but she hopes, five years down the road, to find success in creating her own business opportunities.

"I would like to own my own real estate brokerage, a successful brokerage," Ward said. "If I see an opportunity arise, I would love to practice real estate as an independent agent."

Ward said she believes she first found interest in real estate as a child, at 5 or 6 years old. She recalled, as a small child, tagging along on construction site visits with her father, who was then a licensed carpenter.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Ward said. "I love construction. Even as a pretty dainty lady, I have a love for construction."

Later in life, she said, she was guided to pursue a career in real estate by her sister, a Realtor in the area.

"I would ride with her to show homes, and I would see how much fun it is," she said. "I love real estate, because it's something new every day. It's a different face every day."