HAVERHILL — The Haverhill Public-Private Partnership, better known as HP3, has opened a mentorship training classroom and office at the Burnham School to further its mission of helping Haverhill public school students achieve a living wage job. 

The nonprofit founded in 2019 by retired Army Lt. General Jack Gardner is working within the Haverhill Public School system with the goal of helping students achieve a true living wage job through a process that can include career exploration, mentoring, short-term apprenticeships and internships and touring work sites.

Gardner lives in Alexandria, Virginia, but has been traveling to Haverhill regularly since 2018. He said he selected Haverhill to launch this project because of the city's demographics and how well it represents population trends throughout the country.

Gardner, who served in Iraq, Bosnia, Europe, Asia and Latin America, says he developed his concept based on his experience living and working outside the U.S. as a military officer.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he's met with Gardner many times and is always impressed with his energy and dedication to his goal of helping the youth of Haverhill.

"He works closely with my office and the School Department and is well respected by everyone who knows him," Fiorentini said. "I look forward to seeing his project here in Haverhill grow and prosper and I plan to support him in any way I can."

As part of the multi-pronged approach to preparing students for good paying careers, the fledgling organization will begin a pilot mentoring program in September involving seven, 7th-graders at the Consentino Middle School.

The students will work with mentors from Holy Family Hospital from September through next February, to discuss career and school experiences and to start thinking about career plans. They will mostly communicate online and by email.

Gardner said the intent is to expand the mentoring program by mid-2022 to middle and high school grades and to recent graduates. 

A career exploration program for all 6th and 9th graders involves school visits by Gardner, a program director and members of the community who talk about their jobs, followed by career exploration exercises. 

"We held two, grade 6 events at all four middle schools in January 2020 and we met virtually this June," Gardner said. "We lost the better part of the year because of COVID." 

As part of the program, high school students and recent high school graduates will get free transportation to apprenticeship programs, internships, job training and career exploration visits.

As part of the program, parents will be briefed on how to begin to identify their children's talents and interests, how to identify possible career fields of interest, and how to develop a plan that leads to a successful career.

City Councilor John Michitson, who has experience launching mentoring programs in Haverhill's Public Schools and is on the HP3 steering group, said he's helping to recruit mentors from the technology industry.

"My advice is to start small, then incrementally build the program based on available resources," he said. "Starting at Consentino is a good idea. I also recommend broadening the financial resources and not rely on the government for funding. If successful, I believe that industry will help fund the program because they will be benefitting from it."

Gardner says HP3's primary measure of success is the number of Haverhill public school students who actually transition to a true living wage job.

"The intent is to help focus community energy and resources to make this a reality for every student who walks into a Haverhill school," he said. "A secondary longer-term metric is a measurable improvement in household incomes."

The 21st Century Jobskills Project, a tax-exempt organization, serves as the pro bono manager of HP3 and receives none of the donated funds that are directed to the nonprofit HP3.

For more information about the HP3 program, visit thehp3.com or send email to nfoster@thehp3.com


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