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Program offers professional, spiritual growth for grads

By PAT KIMBROUGHFebruary 24, 2019

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) — The Piedmont Fellows program doesn’t just prepare recent college graduates for a professional career.

The goal of the nine-month leadership development program is to teach them to put their Christian faith into action in all aspects of their lives.

“The Christian component is a very central piece to what we’re doing,” said Mike Gatton, program director. “All the college students we bring in, we make very aware of the spiritual component, and we want them to live with integrity with the Christian faith that they profess.”

Piedmont Fellows, which is affiliated with a national network of similar faith-based programs called The Fellows Initiative, was launched last year by Gatton in the Triad.

Five people enrolled last year and six are currently taking part in the program, which caters to young professionals in fields such as marketing, accounting, communications and other types of businesses by matching them with small to mid-sized companies.

The fellows work part-time professional jobs from September through May in entry-level positions geared towards their major and career aspirations.

They live with a local family, work 29 hours each week, serve each week with a ministry, meet with a mentor, attend weekly theology classes and business seminars, receive executive coaching and participate in professional development with an experienced business executive.

“We bring young talent from around the country to live in Greensboro, Jamestown, and High Point to build and contribute to our community during their stay, and hopefully settle here upon completion of the program,” Gatton said. “The types of jobs they’re doing aren’t necessarily Christian-focused. We do find a lot of Christian business owners love what we’re doing and want to be a part of what we’re doing. A lot of the mentors they get are usually going to come from a Christian perspective.”

Gatton grew up in Statesville and played baseball for Guilford College, where he graduated with a degree in business management and sports management.

“While there, I became a Christian, and was really beginning to wrestle with the concept of, ‘If I say I’m a Christian, then this should impact every area of my life,’” he recalled.

After graduation, he worked for Guilford’s campus ministry for four years and met the director of the Fellows Initiative’s Greensboro chapter, which inspired him to start Piedmont Fellows.

“I want this to be a great service to young college graduates,” Gatton said. “I want what we’re doing to really serve the businesses and increase the level of work and excellence, and for these young people to love and invest in the community.”

Currently, fellows are working with Craft Insurance, The Budd Group, Southeastern Theatre Conference, The Center for Board Excellence and Boosterthon.

In the past, participants have worked with Pay Tel Communications, Columbia Forest Products, Dixon Hughes Goodman and Bryson Industries.

It costs $19,314 for a company to employ a fellow, which equates to $18.50 per hour.

“The way we view it is a bargain for the employer. They’re not having to pay benefits. They’re getting a really good deal for that $18.50 an hour,” he said. “What we’re trying to do with that rate to employers is also decrease the cost for the fellows so we can increase the number of applicants and the talent pool that we’re bringing here as well.”

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Information from: High Point Enterprise, http://www.hpenews.com

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