This month\u2019s recipient of the Mercer Savings Bank Giving Mission donation is Tri Star Career Compact. This career technical education juggernaut draws students from nine high schools in Mercer and Auglaize counties here in Ohio.These schools have developed a curriculum in partnership with Tri Star Career Compact for junior and senior students to give them hands-on technical training and job experience, as well as high school and college credit.Students who complete the program are equipped with the skills that make them job-ready on graduation. However, about 65% of Tri Star\u2019s graduating seniors go on to college for advanced training, and many are able to apply college credit they earned as part of their Tri Star education to a college degree. Hands-On Learning and Jumpstarting Careers\u201cWe\u2019ve been around since the fall of 1983,\u201d says Tim Buschur, Director of Tri Star. \u201cKids come to us for half a day for career tech programming, and we have almost 560 kids. We\u2019ve grown the last couple of years.\u201dPrograms at Tri Star allow juniors and seniors to try out different technical training programs, from agricultural industrial tech and construction to cybersecurity and interactive media.Students from the participating nine schools first visit the Tri Star campus as eighth-graders. They are given a seven- or eight-minute introduction and tour of each program that that center offers. During their sophomore years, students have the opportunity to visit again and try out up to three 45-minute programs of their choosing to see which course of study they want to pursue.\u201cMost kids come because they remember their eighth-grade field trip,\u201d says Buschur, \u201cand then their sophomore year they come back again. A lot of our students also had brothers, sisters, or parents who have gone through it; Mom was a nurse, or their dad was a welder, and that\u2019s why they picked the program.\u201d Training for Transformative TimesBuschur has been with Tri Star for 22 years, and he\u2019s seen the needs of the region change over time. \u201cAt first,\u201d Buschur says, \u201cwith a lot of programs you went straight from Tri Star to working. But today, 65% of our kids go on to further training – because you have to. We’ve got doctors, phlebotomists, EMTs, welders, machinists, construction.\u201dThis additional training is necessary for many specialist positions. However, the program still gives these young people a head start – both financially and foundationally – in comparison to their peers. The ability to gain both skills and college credit that they can apply to a degree program saves them time and money. Providing Vital Equipment for Unprecedented TimesStudents at Tri Star recently took on a vital role in providing personal protective gear to organizations in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contacts at several of the participating Tri Star schools called up Buschur and asked if there was anything the center could do to give back to the community during the crisis.Using their donation from Mercer Savings bank, as well as other donations from the community, Tri Star purchased materials to create hundreds of face shields for health centers such as Mercer Health, local nonprofits, and hairstylists and beauticians who are trying to get back to work safely during this difficult time.\u201cWhen the pandemic started,\u201d says Buschur, \u201cother former students who own companies or had 3-D printers started helping us make them, too. \u2018Cause our printer can’t make 500 an hour. It takes a little time. So we had three or four or five printers going.\u201cSeveral teachers helped with it. One took one home during the weekends so he could help out. I know we had some kids who had their own 3-D printers at home print some off and bring them in. It helped them out and they were very appreciated,\u201d he said. How to Support Tri Star Career CompactThe best way to support Tri Star Career Compact is to donate equipment and raw supplies that students can use to train, practice and hone their skills. This could be donations of steel for the welding program, used agricultural equipment or other supplies related to programs they offer.Please contact the center ahead of time at (419) 586-7060 to see if your donation is appropriate. You can also stay up to date on all of the programs and activities at the center by following them on their Facebook page.