BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
For five Clarkston High School students, getting a jump on a potential career with a local business has been something one executive says is eye-opening.
Seniors Andrew Duca, Miguel Gutierrez, Marcus Hunt, and Nick Ludwig, and junior Grace Rousell are currently involved with Gardner-White as interns through the high school co-op program. The four senior students work in the shop and repair furniture at the Auburn Hills distribution center. Rousell is a human resources intern working in different parts of the business learning the core functions. Currently, she is working in the Auburn Hills store office learning the functions and paperwork processes involved with selling and servicing the products consumers purchase.
“I would like to point out that I have professionals in my building from the ages of 18 up to 65 and 70, and the students from (Clarkston) High School are standing out,” said Jon Doolen, vice president for Gardner-White Furniture Distribution Center operations. “Their skill level is on par with professionals who have been doing this for 40 years. We’re very impressed with them. We’re very much looking forward to growing this program and getting more students as time permits.”
Doolen spoke at the Dec. 9 Board of Education meeting and praised Clarkston Construction Tech teacher Steve Wyckoff for helping to get the ball rolling on the internships.
“Mr. Wyckoff is a true professional; he’s really helped us,” said Doolen. “I’ve been trying to launch some type of co-op program since I arrived in Michigan three years ago. Several other school districts have met with us and toured with us and written programs, but Mr. Wyckoff got it done. Clarkston High School has been a tremendous success.”
Gardner-White doesn’t have internship students from any other district.
“I kind of wiggled my way in through the Springfield Plains principal (Matthew Gifford), and he was able to connect me with the right people,” Doolen said. “One of the things I’ve learned is that there are a lot of part-time opportunities within the school district and I’d like to make sure that the board knows that and that the board is aware that Gardner-White is a locally-owned company. The owners report to work seven days a week. We are looking to invest heavily in this market. We moved from Warren to Auburn Hills about six years ago and we brought our workforce with us. Since I’ve been here, a lot of those folks have transitioned out and have found jobs closer to home. I’m looking to bring in more talent from this market.
“My purpose here (at the meeting) is to say thank you for producing amazing students.”