Business

Women of Achievement Laurie Worden wants mentees to pay it forward

#x201c;Students are a vital part of the community, and we want them to live and work here,#x201d; Laurie Worden says. (T
“Students are a vital part of the community, and we want them to live and work here,” Laurie Worden says. (The Gazette)

In both her professional and personal life, Laurie Worden works to make an impact on the community’s youth.

Her aim is the young people she mentors someday will pay it forward.

“I’m very hopeful for the future and the next generation,” Worden said. “I’m trying to guide high school students in their ability to make an influence, so when they see something broken, they can use their strengths to drive change.”

Worden is director of Workplace Learning Connection at Kirkwood Community College, which develops work-based learning programs for high school students.

The program provides opportunities such as job shadowing, internships and business tours that help students decide if they want to pursue a career in a specific field and to understand the best path to their chosen profession.

It also allows them to connect with potential future employers and gives them a step up in a demanding job market.

“Students are a vital part of the community, and we want them to live and work here,” Worden said. “We don’t want to clip their wings but to understand that this is a wonderful place to live and work and be an influencer.”

Worden’s work has become more challenging these days as her team of 15 employees is working to develop alternatives to workplace learning such as virtual workplace tours and a virtual financial literacy fair.

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“We have been tremendously innovative while all of us have been working from home,” she said. “In many ways it’s been a highlight of my career.”

Outside the workplace, Worden’s work with the Cedar Rapids Kiwanis Club has influenced the community and its youth in myriad ways.

One of her efforts was leading the development of a five-year plan to renovate parks throughout Cedar Rapids to serve the recreational needs of low-income families.

She also formed an alliance with Hawkeye Area Community Action Program to pack hundreds of backpacks with food for elementary students.

Worden considers her most significant work with the Kiwanis Club to be her involvement with Key Club, a student-led organization that provides high school students with opportunities to serve the community and develop leadership skills.

Worden was instrumental in launching a Key Club chapter at Prairie High School and now serves as Key Club liaison for the Cedar Rapids Kiwanis to both Prairie and Xavier High Schools.

Through her work with Key Club, Worden has served as a positive role model to hundreds of high school students, encouraging them to see their strengths and helping them determine how best to use those strengths to have a good influence in the world.

“Everyone needs a really good coach and a cheerleader,” Worden said. “We all can be that for someone.”

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Business 380 spotlights HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.

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