Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter:
At an hour most high school students are sound asleep, Joe Powalisz is in a barn milking cows.
No, he doesn’t work on his family’s farm. Rather, he’ll be out milking cows at 3 a.m. several days a week as part of the Manitowoc County Youth Agriculture Apprenticeship program.
Powalisz is completing his second year of the program at Meadowbrook Dairy farm near Francis Creek. His apprenticeship has led to a love of farming, and the Manitowoc Lincoln High School senior has been accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Farm and Industry short course for next school year.
This school year, Lincoln High School has 47 students part of Youth Apprenticeship, according to coordinator Bonnie Proszenyak.
Youth Apprenticeship is a rigorous one- or two-year program that combines academic and technical classroom teaching with mentored on-the-job learning for high school students. Educators say the program opens doors for students by giving them a chance to “try out” a career while working in an adult working environment and receiving on-the-job training.
Powalisz loves his job at Meadowbrook Dairy and says he never would have found it without the Youth Apprenticeship program.
“They are the ones with the connections,” he said. “It changed my idea of high school, it helped me find a career I’m excited about.”
Powalisz lives in the city of Manitowoc, and his father works as a supervisor for a public utility and his mother at a deli.
He had no real connection to farming or working outdoors until a family friend with a small hobby farm asked the teen a few years ago if he’d like to help out.
Powalisz, now 18, said he liked the work, and decided to work with the apprenticeship program to see if he could find another farm to work for. He tried out another farm in Valders before settling in to Meadowbrook in 2015.