Mentor Schools is focused on strengthening the partnership between students and the local businesses that could hold the keys to their future

Mentor Schools
Mentor Schools is making connections that bring businesses closer to students and students closer to real-world jobs after graduation.

By Mimi Vanderhaven

After hearing about the Cardinal Connect Luncheon on Monday, May 2, at Paradigm in Mentor—Mimi can say she has restored faith in the next generation.

“The purpose of the luncheon, which served more than 140 people, was to connect students with local business partners,” says Kristen Kirby, community relations director for Mentor Schools. “Basically, we selected students in certain areas and paired them at the same table with businesses we thought would be a good fit.”

She explains that the fourth pillar in Mentor Schools’ vision statement is to encourage strong community partnerships. It’s one thing to be concerned with whether students are college-ready, but we hear from employers in the community that students also need to be career-ready as soon as they graduate. The employers’ feedback is that we need to bridge the ‘skills gap.’”

During the luncheon five recipients won awards for their partnership with the schools. You’ve likely seen stories Mimi Magazine has run throughout the school year on several of these fascinating programs. Winners were Classic Auto Group, Mentor Public Library, City of Mentor, Cardinal Credit Union and Laketran.

The partnerships produced amazing results. For instance, Cardinal Credit Union opened a student-led branch at Mentor High School to teach kids all about banking, accounting and management.

“When Classic Auto Group heard our career tech program was in trouble, they built us a new facility on Tyler Boulevard so our kids could study there,” she says. “And the Mentor fire and safety forces, which are facing a shortage of workers, helped set up a partnership for an EMT class. We hired a retired firefighter to run it.”

Mentor Library allowed the school system to operate a branch of its own and gave all the students library cards. LakeTran set up a program to transport students to after-school destinations free of charge.

Says Kristen, “We’re making connections that bring businesses closer to students and students closer to real-world jobs after graduation.”

The Mentor School system educates 7,400 students from pre-K to 12th grade in seven elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school and one school for students with autism. For more information, visit