By Trip James
Vice President, Commercial Lending, Peoria
NMLS # 896008
Students today face a multitude of career options in a wide variety of industries, and at Illinois National Bank, we realize these students need financial education and the opportunity to explore the options.
In December 2014, INB Peoria created a unique opportunity to mentor high school students through the Quest for Colleges and Careers Program which we host at Quest Charter Academy. We gained the support of the Greater Peoria Chamber of Commerce, six committed volunteers (including Peoria mortgage lender Adam Lofgren, NMLS # 1087502, who provides vital support to me in running this program), and the administration of Quest Charter Academy, a school that opened in 2010 in Peoria.
Quest, a tuition-free college preparatory school, was designed to address the shift from a manufacturing economic base to a global science and knowledge-based economy, providing an innovative, standards-based curriculum with an emphasis on math, science and technology.
The inaugural group of 23 sophomores and juniors in the program committed to weekly sessions designed to educate students about career opportunities, offer financial literacy sessions and listen to guest speakers in various industries. The intent was also to establish rapport with the students, so we could become a personal and professional reference throughout the next several crucial years of their lives.
The Quest for Colleges and Careers Program is now in its third semester, and all seniors in the program have been accepted into either a junior college or a four-year college. We have also begun a new program for current sophomores with an emphasis on financial literacy, and we are exploring a program that will pair Quest students with a young professional in the Peoria area who will host the student at his or her workplace for a half day at the end of each semester.
Currently, many Quest students lack the resources and support of college-educated adults in their lives who can guide them through a higher education experience. Through class presentations, group work, one-on-one relationships and more, our program offers the students a chance to connect with adults who can offer their life experiences and help our students explore new possibilities and opportunities as they pursue educational and professional endeavors.