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Start on Success Program Helps Prepare Norfolk Students for Life Beyond the Classroom

By Megan Roche

You’ve seen them around the Nauticus campus: taking tickets, greeting guests, teaching educational programs, and stocking the gift shop. Norfolk’s Public Schools’ Start on Success students are an integral part of Nauticus staff who help bring the best experience to all visitors.

The SOS program is a grant funded program for rising seniors who are receiving a standard or advanced studies diploma. The program is employer based in which students participate in an education for employment class during their first semester of 12th grade and a paid internship in their second semester.

Students greeted guests and showed them how to navigate the museum.

Each department had a different focus; but a skill they all learned was customer service.

Nauticus staff members from different departments mentored the students.

Students in the program are exposed to the work world, learning skills like resume writing, interview techniques, self-advocacy, and a balancing a paycheck. Each week when they come to Nauticus, they work their assigned job and put their classroom skills to the test. In spring of 2022, seven NPS students worked in the education department, the gift shop, guest services, or as members of the battleship crew. 

As our Nauticus SOS students get ready to graduate, we sat down with each of them to highlight their experiences.

Dejah Jenkins: Education/Discovery Crew Member

The biggest skill I will take away is communication and people skills.

Working here helped me a lot. This job made me work harder and taught me to never give up. It also showed me that I can do more than one thing at once. I realized that I can go to school and keep my grades up while working.

I love working with kids and showing them the sharks.

Zoey Hixson: Guest Services Ambassador

The most important skill I will take away is patience. I work at our main escalator a lot which requires me to usually stand in one place for long periods of time.

I would really advise them to pay attention to what they are being told. It is important to pay attention because you can easily tell guests the wrong information. Those guests aren’t going to trust what you are saying.

I really love watching the kids when they first get on the escalator. They are always really excited, and it brings me happiness.

Ethan Foster: Gift Shop Associate

I will take away the fact that it is important that I am an organized person, on time, and paying attention.

Students should be productive, no matter what type of job you have here. You have to push forward and past whatever stands in your way. Keep moving toward success.

Having this job has helped me become more responsible with my goals. I also really learned the importance of managing my time.

William Armstrong: Battleship Crew Member

Nauticus taught me that I like to talk to people and give everyone a good experience during their visit. 

Even though I am a super nice person, I am really shy. Working here has helped me overcome that.

I really loved when I met the staff on the battleship for the first time. It’s nice to meet new people.

Levi Hollister: Education/Discovery Crew Member

I really learned the importance of being focused. You have to make sure you are prepared for when guests come and ask you questions. You want to introduce guests to your area as best as you can.

I would tell the next class of students to not think too hard about it. If you go slowly with it, you should be successful.

This program has helped me learn the skills for working around all different types of people and personalities.

Dominic Lanier: Guest Services Ambassador

You always want to have a big smile on your face while you are here and have great communication skills. Working here you are going to deal with people that may not be happy. At the end of the day, just do your best.

Working here has taught me how to not talk so fast and how to explain things slowly.

My favorite experience was meeting my fellow coworkers.

Zachary Potter: Battleship Crew Member

I think the most important skill, whether it’s your first job or not, is people skills. You are going to be working with, greeting and dealing with people that you don’t know. You want to make a good impression. 

Don’t sweat so much. You are going to come out of the program with so much confidence. You might not have an idea of what you are getting yourself into, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be just fine once you get into the field.

Working at Nauticus, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Once I started, it kind of got easier. I changed my personality where I’d really like to be more of a people person now. 

I really love giving the Command and Control tours on the battleship. The tours really take you into the depths of the ship’s history. I love the CEC and simulating what it was like when the ship was in combat.