The Green Bay Packers are no strangers to receiving awards for their success on the football field, and likewise, being recognized for achievements away from the gridiron is nothing new to the organization.
Along those lines, the Packers Pro Shop was recently named as a Golden Business Award winner for 2004, an award sponsored by Partners in Education.
Partners in Education is a business and education partnership serving the 10 area school districts in the Greater Green Bay area - Ashwaubenon, De Pere, Green Bay, Howard-Suamico, Luxemburg-Casco, Pulaski, Seymour, West De Pere, Wrightstown.
Through the affiliation with the Partners in Education program, the Pro Shop for the past seven years has been providing local high school students with the opportunity to gain valuable experience as employees in their operation at Lambeau Field.
This year, the Pro Shop has employed five students from Green Bay's Southwest and Preble High Schools in their "co-op" program - a program that gives these business-minded students a chance to learn through on-the-job experience what a career in the business field might have in store for them.
Also, through the "work experience" program, two special needs students from West High have been able to gain just that - work experience - in the Pro Shop.
The students work both in the retail store located in the Lambeau Field Atrium and also in the near-by warehouse.
Chris Cohorst, the Pro Shop's customer service and training coordinator, and Deb Mulry, the store manager, are primarily in charge of the program on the Packers' end and are very proud of the Gold Business Award - both because of the honor, and what it represents in their work with the students.
"It's very nice knowing that the students and the teachers both really enjoy us and what we can do for them," Cohorst said. "School is so much different than it used to be with the marketing programs and things like that, and just to be able to give them experience and to be recognized for that, it's always nice to have that under your belt."
The Pro Shop has been acknowledged in the past for their participation in the program, but this year's award marked their first.
"We've been recognized by the individual programs by Southwest or Preble to be the 'Employer of the Year' from their schools, but as a business to be recognized by the whole educational community as 'Employer of the Year' - one of five - it's certainly a very big honor," said Mulry. "I think that shows more long-term commitment. It wasn't just one year that we had six students - we've been doing it for many years."
She went on to say that she feels the students of the program gain more from this program than any old after-school job they could take on.
"I think we make a special effort with those students in mentoring them. We do with all of our students, but these students are with us longer time-wise - they come in at about 1:30 each day. We make a point to have special projects and really get involved in all aspects of the business.
I think mentoring people in any job is very satisfying. Watching them grow from when they come in at 16, 17 and watching them grow and succeed."
Cohorst stated that one of the greatest benefits from his end is seeing the development of the students over the course of their participation in the program.
"It's always interesting because I do the hiring of the students," he said. "When they're recommended, you do the initial interview and just to see what they're like when they first start to where they end up. They come 180 degrees from basically not knowing anything about the business to knowing how our business operates and taking that and running with it.
"For them to be excited about coming to work and to tell their friends that this is a good place to work - it makes you feel nice that they appreciate it so much."