By Sarrah Peters
Gadsden City High School senior Haley James practically grew up at Gadsden Lighting Showroom.
“It’s a family business,” said James. “I’ve really been raised there since I was a little girl.”
During her junior year of high school, James joined GCHS’s work co-op program.
“I have a first and second block and then at 11 a.m., I go and work for third and fourth block, so I’m there from 12 to 5 p.m. every day,” said James.
Haley works as the receiving secretary. She receives the deliveries and packing slips, keeps track of the store’s inventory, prices the items, gets the inventory on the showroom floor and helps assist on the floor with selling.
“I liked the idea of getting out there and getting a hands-on experience,” said James. “There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom. I thought it was really cool that I was going to be able to go out and learn the ropes.”
James said that the co-op program has given her the opportunity to get real world experience. After high school, she plans to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study business and is looking to take advantage of the school’s many internship opportunities.
“I don’t want to go and sit in a classroom all through high school and then be thrown into an internship,” said James. “This has given me the opportunity, before I get to Birmingham, to actually interact with people and learn customer service and how to handle situations and problems that arise.”
James also appreciates the financial independence that the work program gives her.
“Me having a steady income at this point in my life is teaching me how to budget,” said James. “I don’t usually ask my parents for money anymore. I’m able to spend my own money and budget it.”
James said that the co-op program at GCHS is large and includes about 200 students.
As part of the work-based co-op program, the teachers Anita Kinsey and Kristy Johnson travel to the students’ workplaces to take their photos while they work. The photos are hung in the GCHS classrooms and hallways. James and classmate Sara Buchanon, who is employed at Old Navy, were recently featured on the GCHS Facebook page, highlighting both students’ accomplishments.
James in also president of the school’s DECA club and won third in the state’s DECA’s Human Resources competition, earning her a trip to the international DECA competition in Orlando. For the state competition, students were given HR scenarios and asked to respond. Despite not having much knowledge of HR procedures, James drew on her experience with Gadsden Lighting’s family-like environment to respond.