Westfield residents Jennifer and Cole McCulloch saw a need to assist young people who might need help determining the best direction for them following high school.
“We are parents of three teenaged and young adult men, and we noticed that a lot of their friends, as well as their classmates, have struggled to understand, ‘What do I want to do after high school and what path takes me to that goal?’” Jennifer said. “So, goal setting and figuring out a path toward a successful career that may or may not include college is a challenge for a lot of kids. We (think) we’ve run a successful business. Our kids have faced these challenges as well. We think that we can be a help to the community and young people.”
Jennifer and Cole, a disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran, are starting Champion’s Path in Westfield. Cole is the owner and Jennifer is the director of operations. The program is dedicated to helping high school students and young adults find a career in the trades, U.S. military or as an entrepreneur. The program’s classes can be completed online or in person at Student Impact of Westfield. Classes are scheduled to begin Jan. 2, 2024.
All the courses are led exclusively by successful business owners who have also served in the U.S. Marines, U.S. Special Forces and other high-ranking positions in the U.S. military.
“We’ve talked to other business owners who were struggling to find employees,” Jennifer said. “We said, ‘You are struggling to find employees and young adults are struggling to find jobs. Why don’t we find a way to work together to bring you possible employees and young adults who are ready to do an internship, or maybe want to start a business, to go into the trades or into the military? Or maybe they go to college, but they’ve been through a preparatory program that has you looking internally at what you want to do, the skills you might have and let’s figure out a way to put them to good use.”
The five-week program is held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with each student attending only one of the days each week. The classes are 2 to 2 1/2 hours per night. The target ages are 16 to 24.
Student Impact of Westfield Executive Director Danyele Easterhaus is convinced the program is a good fit.
“Teens and young adults have muddled through the last few years without a sense of direction like never before,” Easterhaus said. “Everything they knew in school, at home, and in the community was changing and fluid. Consistency is a key factor in helping students to reach their goals in all areas of life. Champion’s Path has a relationship-based approach that fosters individuals in group settings, paired with successful business-minded people in the community. The collaboration of CP with the workforce takes a step forward for these students that they don’t have to do alone. They have partners who can assist them with their desires, direction and questions to make their own best path forward for their career choices.”
Easterhaus said Champion’s Path is a natural continuation for many of the students at Student Impact.
“The impact of allowing students to have a framework in place to assist them with making lifelong career decisions is key to making them successful adults who contribute well to the community with love and acceptance,” Easterhaus said.
Jennifer said the program is designed to get young people to think about what they want to do.
“Then we introduce them to possible employers or schools or where they want to go,” Jennifer said.
In addition, Jennifer said college has become increasingly unaffordable for many people.
“You can rack up a lot of debt and have no real reason except someone said you needed to (go to college) and then you have no idea how to be a good employee,” Jennifer said.
The first course is the Compass Course, where young adults have to present a PowerPoint presentation to the course and parents to show their path.
For more, visit championspath.net.
Jennifer and Cole McCulloch moved to Westfield 2 1/2 years ago so their middle son, Ryan, who has high-functioning autism, could attend Midwest Academy in Carmel.
“All three of our children have gone to high school and all three have taken completely different paths to life,” Jennifer said.
Ryan, 20, received a scholarship to attend Marian University and is attending the first year of its autism program, Spectrum of Knights.
Jennifer said Ryan retook his junior and senior years at Midwest to prepare himself for college.
The couple’s youngest son Holden, 17, is an elite soccer player who attended University High School through his junior year. He attends Italy’s top soccer academy called Rome City Institute this school year. Holden also has received a scholarship offer to participate in the academy’s college program if he chooses to stay in Italy.
“He wanted to see how far he could go in soccer,” Jennifer said. “He’s an excellent soccer player but he also wants to be a good student. We researched where else you could be looking to get great coaching and a great education.”
Oldest son Connor, 23, started college but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.
“Right now, he’s working at Whole Foods in Carmel and is considering some sort of career in the trades,” Jennifer said.
Prior to moving to Westfield, the couple had owned one of the largest privately owned shooting ranges in the nation in West Virginia. Jennifer, who ran the facility, continued working in the business for two years after moving while transferring it to the new owners.