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Jones Dairy Farm and Opportunities, Inc. have always been strong collaborators for the community, so when Opportunities, Inc. invited Jones Dairy Farm to partner with them on their new initiative, Career Mentoring Sessions, of course they were on board. It fit perfectly into their community outreach mission and value with local organizations.

Career Mentoring Sessions provide youth and adults with diverse abilities, who are preparing to enter the workforce, or are choosing a career path, the opportunity to interact with industry leaders and gain valuable knowledge and expertise on local companies. Opportunities, Inc. serves nearly 20 area school districts and hundreds of students age 14-21 in community based transition services. With Opportunities, Inc.’s 50 years of business relationship building experience; they can offer this valuable service to educational partners and state funding agencies to advance youth and adults into community integrated employment of their choice.  

Each business host prepares a very unique mentoring session. Some may offer tours, while others offer power point presentations that share facts about the business and its future goals. The hosting businesses in turn meet eager and attentive participants while showcasing their company and expertise. It’s a win-win experience for all.

At Jones Dairy Farm, the host representatives included Rick Lowry, Executive Vice President; Jeff Theder, Vice President of Manufacturing; Kevin Kostroski , Production Manager; and Karie Martin, Human Resources Manager. Opportunities, Inc. had three enthusiastic students from their Youth Apprenticeship program attend; Dakota Dickhut, Charlie Bergman, and Terry Frye. The group met in the company’s executive board room to begin, because this is not a common meeting place for young job seekers, especially young job seekers with diverse abilities and complemented their experience. 

A welcome and introduction followed. Lowry gave each of the participants his business card and asked them to flip the card over to find that it was translated into Japanese. This impressed the students and thus began a discussion on respecting each other’s cultures and diversity. It was a great opening to the day! Lowry then proceeded with an informative presentation on Jones Dairy Farm’s 126 year family-owned and operated history. 

Next, the group was led to a room where they were surprised to find a table filled with a bountiful assortment of Jones’ products to sample. This special addition to the Jones Dairy Farm career session was greatly enjoyed by all of the participants. Once everyone was done eating, Theder familiarized the group with the required attire for working in the plant, such as a white lab coat, hair net, shoe covers and a hard hat, then proceeded to lead the students through the manufacturing facility. It was an eye opening experience for the students to see each step of the operation. 

After the tour, each participant paired up with one of the Jones’ representatives for an individual practice interview. Each student received two separate meetings for twenty minutes at which time they were able to perfect their interview skills and confidence.  They received personal feedback forms and expert tips from their interviewers upon completion. 

The students had a great time and were very thankful of the experience. Dakota commented, “Jones Dairy Farm is an amazing place. I liked seeing how they made their meat and that I got to do an interview with the Vice President!” Charlie stated, “I had a lot of fun and enjoyed meeting the Vice President and all the executives. After my second mock interview, they commented that I would be a good candidate for working there.” Terry also added, “I enjoyed practicing my interviewing skills and being given feedback on improvements. The best part was meeting the executives and going on the tour to learn all the steps in making meat like bacon.” 

Theder noted, “The experience once again confirmed the impressive job that Opportunities, Inc. does preparing these students. Each student I interviewed identified acceptance into the YA program as their accomplishment, this speaks volumes of the program and its impact!” Martin shared, “The session was a great experience all around!  It was a pleasure to meet each of the students and provide a real world situation in which they could practice interview techniques.  Interviewing proves to be a challenge for candidates with all levels of experience, so I was happy to assist in the building of their confidence for future opportunities they will be presented with.”

Kostroski also enjoyed the experience and added, “I was impressed on how well prepared the interviews were and how they presented themselves during the session. Interviewing for jobs is a difficult process as in most cases it’s hard to toot your own horn, but it becomes more comfortable with experience.  I just hope that Dakota, Charlie and Terry take as much away from the experience as I was able to gain from it.”

To recognize their accomplishments and experience a true “networking” opportunity, Jones’ provided an appetizing lunch for the entire team. They enjoyed each other’s company and concluded a memorable day! 

The Manufacturing Sessions are part of Opportunities, Inc.’s Career Mentoring Sessions and are open to all industries. If your business is interested in sharing expertise and inspiring job seekers with diverse abilities, contact Opportunities, Inc. Mission Advancement division at 1.920.563.2437. 


 Jeff Theder, Vice President of Manufacturing; Karie Martin, Human Resources Manager; Rick Lowry, Executive Vice President; and Kevin Kostroski , Production Manager with students Dakota Dickhut, Charlie Bergman, and Terry Frye.


 Jeff Theder showing the students an assortment of Jones Dairy Farm products to sample.


 Group picture before the facility tour.


 Dakota practices his interviewing skills with Jones Dairy Farm executive staff members during a mock interview.