Graduating from high school is one of life’s first big milestones for many young people. Another one is deciding what career to pursue and/or how to make a living.
Kelly Coughlin, a senior at South Effingham High School, is just a stone’s throw away from both of these and, thanks to the Effingham County schools’ work-based learning program, she’s well-prepared.
Coughlin is about to begin her third semester as a pharmacy clerk with Carter’s Pharmacy. Her interest in working in some type of medical or pharmaceutical field led her to apply during her junior year for acceptance into the high school’s youth apprenticeship program. In addition to gaining valuable experience that will enhance her college education as well as her future career, Coughlin admits that she’s also learned a great deal about work-based relationships.
“I struggled last year when I first started working,” explained Coughlin. “I would get frustrated with myself and my co-workers. But I decided to stick it out, which is what you have to do in the real world.”
Coughlin reports to SEHS for the first two periods of school and then works Monday through Friday from 1-7 p.m. She also works on Saturdays and some Sundays. She receives elective credits for the hours she works and she will graduate on schedule this May.
Not all students can participate in the work-based learning program two years in a row, but Coughlin was able to because she completed most of her required core courses during her freshman and sophomore years.
In addition to learning how to get along with her co-workers and customers, Coughlin said she now has experience with maintaining a budget.
“I’m learning how to save money,” she explained, “instead of spending all of my paycheck as soon as I get it.”
Coughlin added that she hasn’t saved a lot yet, but she understands that “you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Pharmacist and state Rep. Buddy Carter is a big fan of the work-based learning program offered at both of Effingham County’s high schools. In addition to Coughlin, Carter has hired several other student apprentices from various high schools.
“I think it’s a great program,” Carter said. “It gives the students real life experience with working in a customer-oriented business.”
Carter added that some of the apprentices decide quickly that working in a pharmacy is not their cup of tea, while some go on to college with plans to become a licensed pharmacist.
Coughlin said she plans to attend Armstrong Atlantic State University for her first two years of college and then transfer to South University in Savannah. She said she’s still juggling her career options — pharmacist or veterinarian — but feels well-prepared to begin her secondary education in either field.