YA Student Stars honored

Front row, L to R: Nora Trojanowski, Gretchen Such, Allison Hunter, Madelyn Mootz, Anna Westfall, and McKenna Meyer. Back row, L to R: Phillip Vogel, Christian Gilbert, Sawyer Peterson, Matthew Steffen, and Kaiden Ratzlaff. Missing from photo: Jacob Graap. Photo courtesy of Merrill High School.


The Merrill High School (MHS) Youth Apprenticeship (YA) Program celebrated their Student Stars at a banquet with their friends, families, mentors, and employers on May 1, 2024, at the Merrill Eagle’s Club. Awards were given for excellence in developing career readiness skills at their worksite. Of the 88 students participating in YA in the 2023-24 academic year, 12 students were presented with this year’s Stars award.
Recipients of this year’s awards and their respective employer/workplace are:

  • Christian Gilbert, Brickner’s Park City
  • Anna Westfall, Park City Credit Union
  • Kaiden Ratzlaff, MAPS IT Department
  • Matthew Steffen, Breaman Merrill Ford
  • Phillip Vogel, Nieman Brands, Fromm Family Foods
  • Nora Trojanowski, Pine Crest Nursing Home
  • Gretchen Such, St. Francis Xavier Child Care
  • McKenna Meyer, Incredible Bank
  • Jacob Graap, Russ Davis Wholesale
  • Madelyn Mootz, St. John’s Lutheran Christian Care
  • Sawyer Peterson, Peterson Brothers Sand and Gravel
  • Allison Hunter, Geiss Meat Services

Linda Murray and Steve Hintze, YA Coordinators at MHS, explain the YA Program is “a rigorous one or two-year elective, statewide program for high school Juniors and Seniors that combines academic and technical instruction with mentored, paid, on-the-job learning that makes a real world connection for students.”

Youth apprenticeships are available in 13 different program areas, encompassing a wide array of occupations, skills, competencies, and work experience opportunities including:

  • Agriculture, food, and natural resources
  • Architecture and construction
  • Art, audio/visual technology, and communications
  • Business
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Health science
  • Hospitality, lodging, and tourism
  • Information technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, technology, engineering, and math
  • Transportation, distribution, and logistics

“Youth Apprentices work a minimum of 450 hours at their YA worksite each year of their program and take related high school or college classes to enhance their worksite experiences,” Murray and Hintze said. “They earn one credit for each semester they successfully participate in YA, and at the completion of their apprenticeship, they receive a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency from the State of Wisconsin, an accomplishment that is recognized by both employers and colleges alike.”
From a student standpoint, participation in the YA Program provides them with a chance to learn and earn at the same time. On-the-job training and experience enables them to learn from skilled professionals in the workplace, step away from the academic environment and to develop real-world experience in the workforce during part of the school day, explore career areas, and earn a paycheck.
“They become more organized and efficient with their time, increase career awareness and improve future employability, and develop the necessary skills needed for entry-level employment,” Murray and Hintze said. Also, in some program areas, they begin working towards a Registered Apprenticeship, they said.
Employers participating in the YA Program realize real benefits, as well. Especially in today’s competitive workforce, hiring apprentices enables them to attract and recruit potential employees early and provides them with the opportunity to “shape the quality of their workforce,” the YA Coordinators said. Students are educated and trained according to each employer’s best practices in a live work environment. By developing partnerships with MHS, YA employers also “build great employee loyalty and create positive PR by helping youth with employment and education,” Murray and Hintze said.
Students and employers interested in learning more or participating in the YA Program for the 2024-25 school year can contact Murray or Hintze at MHS at 715.536.4594.

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