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Amazing Gas Card Race

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In response to the demand for an educated workforce, the State of Arkansas has funded an exciting program in our community at Arkansas Tech University- Ozark Campus, known as the Career Pathways Initiative (CPI).The CPI program is designed to allow parents without higher education credentials, and lacking in resources, to attend up to two years of college or technical school to gain the skills they need for entry into a high-demand/high-wage career. Students are given support and encouragement in the form of tutoring, student and career counseling, employability workshops, managing finances, gasoline assistance, and more.

This fall CPI students were invited to participate in the CPI Amazing Gas Card Race to compete for extra gas money. Participation was voluntary and the event began with fourteen students. Two teams of five, and one team of four, began the race which consisted of three legs. The first leg required students to meet with an instructor of a course they perceived as difficult on an individual basis, and record the results of the meeting. After each individual group member completed their portion they came together as a team to compare notes, and compose a paper that summarized the common ingredients of success in tough courses. Each group member was able to open an early line of communication with an instructor or class that they perceived as difficult, which will increase their chances of performing well in these courses.

Once the first leg of the race was approved as satisfactory by the Career Support Services Facilitator (CSSF) teams were given a networking exercise for leg two. The networking exercise required students to make four meaningful contacts with people they have never met and that are not current students. The purpose was to familiarize students with stepping outside of their comfort zone, reach out in a sincere manner to build new relationships, and ultimately create new opportunities. The group reports consisted of a one page summary about each individual member’s discoveries during the process of networking. Students were able to make global connections through the use of social networking websites, employment connections from speaking to managers at local businesses, and possible future business-to-business connections as a result of reaching out to other professionals in their field of study.

The final leg of the race gave students an option to choose one of two team building exercises- Toxic Waste or Gutter Ball. The first team to finish picked Toxic Waste, and scheduled a time to meet with the Career Support Services Facilitator (CSSF). Toxic Waste, a common team building game at corporate retreats, requires team members to solve the problem of relocating spilled toxic waste into a containment bucket using only one rope per person and a bungee cord. The waste (golf balls) is placed inside a danger zone (chalk circle) that team members can’t cross to complete the task. Teams that have already been through the development stages usually fair better at this event, as was the case with our first place team. Once the team completed the task the CSSF was able to illustrate the relationship of the groups forming, storming, norming, and performing periods throughout the process of the CPI Amazing Gas Card Race.

As the race progressed through each stage people continued to drop from the competition, which makes the accomplishment of our completing teams remarkable. The original fourteen has become eight, a team of five and a team of three. Our first place winners are: Debra Bono, Billie Parks, and Sheila Helmert. These three students exhibited time management, flexibility, commitment, and perseverance above and beyond what was initially expected from the creators of the CPI Amazing Gas Card Race.

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