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A partnership between Chautauqua Striders and Wegmans recently provided several students with career opportunities.
At a recent hiring event held in partnership between Wegmans and the Chautauqua Striders Mentoring program at Jamestown High School, 16 students were hired by Wegmans for various positions. The local grocery store chain has partnered with Striders for over five years. However, Wegmans not only looks to provide work experience for area students – Wegmans staff members also volunteer within the mentoring program.
Krystyna Muniz, Wegmans Food Safety coordinator has been a mentoring volunteer for the past three years. She said she started mentoring when she was a recruiter for the local Lakewood branch of Wegmans.
“I always want to make sure I’m giving back in some way to the community,” Muniz said. “I’ve lived here for almost 17 years now – this is my community. I grew up here. It’s just really important to help the next generation, and it’s important to offer that mentorship, offer that guidance and offer examples of ‘Hey, you might have come from this situation, you might not think that you have this opportunity, but you have just as much of a chance of success as any person here.”
Muniz said she believes mentoring is a good opportunity for people to get involved with youth in the community.
“You can change a whole kid’s trajectory just by being that mentor (and) by offering that guidance,” she said. “A lot of people might not know the opportunities that we have here in Jamestown – but I think this is really good, and it’s really important to make sure that we are involved as much as we can be with the next generation.”
Providing job opportunities is just another way of supporting youth in the community, she said.
“We were looking at hiring and we had this partnership before with Striders,” Muniz said. “We thought it would be a great oppovrtunity to try presentations here.”
Last year, 10 students were hired through the partnership, bringing the total to 26 students hired by Wegmans over the past few years. The idea is to bring the students into the organization to cultivate their passions and ambitions.
“Wegmans is kind of unique,” said Muniz. “Pretty much anything you want to do in life, we have an opportunity somewhere in the company. We want to help (the students) find that position and find that role that they’re really looking for. We have kids that have gone away to school for financial planning and have come back as analysts for us in the company. We have kids that are really interested in culinary arts, and they join our management intern program, and they have a job at the end of that. It’s really finding where they want to fit, something they’re passionate about and something that really calls to them.”
Muniz said Wegmans has plans to continue the program over the next few years.
“This has been a great partnership I think for both of us,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids. We are all about making a difference. That’s one of our core values, and we think this is a good opportunity to give back and to be able to make a difference in these kids’ lives.”
Elimelec Perez, High School Mentoring coordinator, said he has really valued the efforts and support Wegmans has provided over the years, both through career presentations as well as mentoring volunteers.
“It’s an amazing experience for them to come here and give that opportunity to the students,” Perez said. “For them to take the time and pinpoint what they’re doing and how they can help our young community is amazing. I don’t think a lot of people are doing that, and I feel that’s something that shows how they are helping our community. They also bring something to the table by taking the time out to spend quality time with the students we have. This partnership is an example that other people can take into the world – it’s an example to follow.”
Chautauqua Striders offers various opportunities for mentors to volunteer. Most opportunities require only a few hours a month. For more information on mentoring and ways to get involved, call Director of Mentoring and Advocacy Erika Muecke at 716-489-3483.