A Relationship Built on Shared Values
Wegmans Employees Dameir Webb, Ty Kelly, and Earlington Walker
As a company, we have always valued education for its ability to create opportunities. That’s why we’re focused on helping our youth through job and mentorship opportunities, support of after-school programs, and tuition assistance through our Wegmans Employee Scholarship Program.
In 1987, the Wegman family created the Wegmans Work Scholarship Program (WWSP) in response to a call-to-action by the Urban League of Rochester. Graduation rates in the City of Rochester were at an all-time low, so the goal of this program was, and still is, to give those underprivileged students the tools and resources needed to be successful. Since the start of the program, the WWSP has seen a 99-100% average graduation rate. After graduating, many of these students go on to further their education with help from the Wegmans employee scholarship or choose another career path.
“The reason this program is successful is because of the commitment we see from the students,” says Ty Kelly, who has led the WWSP for years. “By giving them a job opportunity at Wegmans, we’re able to help guide and teach them disciplines that can be transferred to their schoolwork and beyond. These students want to succeed, they just don’t always have the support at home or at school to do it on their own.”
Over the past thirty-five years, this program has grown significantly. We currently employ roughly 300 work scholarship students from 20 different participating high schools in the Rochester area. One of those schools is Vertus, a non-profit, all male, public charter school, that currently has 24 students participating in our work scholarship program, which aligns perfectly with their mission to prepare leaders of character for the community and the workforce.
From the time the school was founded in 2014, the staff at Vertus has done an incredible job supporting their students, not only in their schoolwork, but also in their personal and professional lives. “When I heard about the model for Vertus prior to its opening, I wanted to get involved because it was exactly what the Wegman family envisioned for the WWSP when they created it,” says Ty. “The school lives by the same values as Wegmans, and just like the WWSP, they are committed to building future, well-rounded leaders.” Ty sat on Vertus’ board during its early years and was able to share experiences he had from the WWSP.
“The statistics paint a grim picture for young men in the City of Rochester, so it is very important for us to help our students defy the odds against them,” says Joe Carter, Vertus’ director of admissions. “Our goal at Vertus is to change the narrative of how the world views inner-city kids, especially Black and Brown young men. The best way to do that is to build these young men up so they believe in themselves first. If we achieve that, we know our students will be productive members of society.”
Vertus is focused on four pillars for success: building strong relationships; personalized, year-round academics; character education; and career preparation. Currently, the school has roughly 300 students with an average graduation rate of 83%.
When you walk into Vertus, the hallways are lined with accolades of students’ achievements and quotes from some of the most influential people in America. With school in session year-round, Vertus students are each assigned a preceptor who helps keep them on track. In addition to serving as an academic liaison, each preceptor serves as a role model and support system for their group of students, and are available 24/7, 365 days a year. This concept parallels how our WWSP operates as well. Our work scholarship employees all have a manager at each Wegmans store who acts as a workplace mentor. We have found this to be a key aspect of the program, giving students a resource at work to help support and assist them throughout their journey.
If you want to learn more about Vertus, visit their website here: Vertus High School – Rochester’s Charter High School for Men (vertusschool.org)