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October 23, 2015
Community involvement
Starfish Initiative

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Workplace Encounter through the Starfish Initiative, an Indianapolis-based program that pairs mentors with economically-disadvantaged high school students. Workplace Encounters encourage students to start thinking about their future and possible career opportunities by visiting local companies in varying fields. I've been a mentor in the Starfish program for three years, but this was my first Workplace Encounter.

For our Workplace Encounter, Pepper partnered with RATIO Architects. It was a great experience and allowed me to work with a group of students who show an interest in the design and construction industry. The highlight of the day for me was interacting with a couple of students following the presentation. Several of them showed interest in the construction industry and asked about doing a job shadow with me. While most of the students were fairly familiar with what architects do, I don't think they really understood what is involved on the construction side. After the presentation I think a lot of them walked away with a better understanding of our profession and discovered a potential career opportunity in construction management that they hadn't previously considered.

100% of Starfish Scholars who have completed the four-year program have graduated from high school, and 98 percent have been accepted by colleges or universities.

I joined Starfish because I was looking for an opportunity to get involved in the community. The Starfish Initiative's mission resonated with me because the students are required to be a 21st Century Scholar to be a part of the program, and I was a 21st Century Scholar. And while I didn’t participate in a structured mentor program as a student in high school, I had a lot of coaches and teachers who mentored me along the way. Starfish is a great way for me to pay it forward. As a mentor, I get to guide and support my scholar from his freshman year through graduation, in addition to helping prepare him for college. 

What's next for me as a mentor is helping my scholar prepare for his SATs and college visits. He's been participating in a lot of different career assessment exercises, and while he's not interested in construction management, I'm looking forward to seeing which career path he decides to pursue and helping him reach his goals.

About the Author

Sam Fugate

Sam FugateProject Director, Indiana

Sam Fugate has 17 years of industry experience, all at Pepper. His career has focused primarily on industrial construction, with more than 4.4 million square feet in distribution facilities and counting. He serves as a mentor for the Starfish Initiative and holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from Indiana State University.