Shannen’s stepbrother, Jared, plans to be a doctor, and his family supports him all the way, putting money aside for his college education.
But they’re not alone in looking out for Jared’s future. Shannen’s employer, HireSmart, is helping, too, by providing a scholarship that will cover Jared’s ninth-grade school expenses, allowing Shannen and her mom, Cecile, to save for their loved one’s medical degree.
“I’m super grateful,” said Shannen, HireSmart’s virtual employee relations manager. “It’s really a huge help, especially to my mom. When I told her, she was super dramatic and super emotional. We celebrated when we heard the news, just a little gathering here at home.”
Shannen said her younger brother’s intellect was evident early. She tutored him prior to preschool and could see he was special.
“When I was tutoring him, I saw that he can memorize a lot of things so fast, faster than I can,” she said. “And then I realized he is really special. He’s so good in math and English at the same time, which is super rare. I really thought he was special even before he started going to school.”
The proud big sister and her family have celebrated Jared’s achievements in school.
“Last year, he received a reward of being with high honors, which was super great,” she said. “Everyone in the family was there to acknowledge him and the recognition.”
Shannen said she and her mom are working to save money for Jared’s education, but she said saving became much tougher after her father passed away recently.
“Because of that, I had to get funds from the savings that I had for his (Jared’s) education,” she said. “That was impacted. I need to restart and try to save up again for his college. My mom and I work on that together, but it is very expensive, especially going to med school. It’s something we need to prepare for.”
Jared changed schools this year and didn’t qualify for a scholarship, but HireSmart stepped in with assistance.
“I’m super grateful because this will really help me and my mom prepare for my brother’s future,” she said.
Shannen and her brother also look for ways to help others. She said Jared is “very generous to everyone, especially those in need.”
“It’s my tradition where every Christmas I would give back, so I would prepare food for the homeless and then go around and give it to them,” she said. “And then later, I realized my brother loves that, too. He would accompany me. He would usually save up the cash he receives during Christmas. He would give me a portion of that to help as well. And he started helping me since he was in grade two.”
HIRESMART TRULY CARES
HireSmart Virtual Employees has a nonprofit arm, HireSmart Cares, which seeks to better lives in both the Philippines and the U.S. with scholarships such as these. HireSmart truly cares for its employees, offering medical and dental insurance, good wages, a work-from-home lifestyle, a strong support staff, leadership training possibilities for career advancement, and scholarship opportunities.
Troy Hanson's family doesn't need Starbucks. No, they have a coffee whiz under their own roof. And Hanson, a rising high school sophomore, aims to make a career out of the coffee business.
"Ever since I was young, I just like making coffee and food, and I have my own little store that I have in my house," he said. "I started doing that when I was about maybe 12. My family would order something out, and I'd make it. They would order lattes, hot chocolate, cappuccinos, frappuccinos, all sorts of stuff."
Hanson, the son of Richard and Christy Hanson, plans to open his own coffee shop in a few years, and he got a big boost from HireSmart Cares recently, a $2,500 scholarship to help him get the business off the ground.
"I will use the money for probably equipment," he said. "That takes a lot of the budget. I will probably need a larger espresso machine as well as a register."
Hanson earned the scholarship by winning first place in the 2023 Madico Makers contest put on annually by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce. Young entrepreneurs in the county make a "Shark Tank" business pitch to a panel of judges. HireSmart awarded the second and third-place winners $1,000 and $500.
This year's winner presented his plans for "Anchors Café."
"I thought of Anchors because it is in the Bible meaning 'hope,'" he said. "I talked about how I would open up and who I would ask for coffee beans, who I would purchase from, and where I would set my shop up when I do."
Hanson initially plans to set up his coffee business within HomeGrown Market in Colbert, Georgia, which offers a variety of homemade items from Madison County and the State of Georgia.
"They need a person to sell sandwiches and beverages," he said. "Once it (Anchors Café) gets larger, I would think about opening up in a different building and hiring."
Hanson, who plans to study business and cooking in college, voiced his appreciation to Mark and Anne Lackey and HireSmart Cares for the scholarship.
"I would say thank you so much for this opportunity," he said. "It's greatly appreciated that you helped me as a young person to become independent and make my business a business."
HireSmart Cares actively promotes young entrepreneurship, job skills development in grade school, and financial literacy so that youth can be prepared to enter the workforce and perhaps start their own businesses directly out of high school. The organization discourages students from saddling themselves with significant college debt without a clear path to pay it off.
Hanson, who has five siblings, said his most popular item is "mainly my frappuccinos," but he said that's not what he typically drinks.
"My favorite is a flat white," he said. "A flat white is where it's mainly just espresso, and milk has barely gotten any foam."
Airene wants the best for her kids, and HireSmart Virtual Employees shares in that aim.
The company recently awarded Airene a scholarship for her daughter, Francesca Venice, who turns 5 in November.
“I really wanted to enroll her in a good school,” said Airene, a single mother of two, who also has a son, Austin Savior, 3. “She’s just starting, and I really believe she needs a strong foundation, and that’s something I can only find in a reputable school here.”
The scholarship will allow Airene to send her daughter to a private school so she can have a strong start to her educational journey.
The proud mom says her daughter is “very smart, very energetic.”
“She likes painting,” said Airene. “When she was 3, she started drawing using a crayon that she found on my desk. I was working that night, and then she told me, ‘Hey mom, I drew your face.’ I was just really surprised because she was 3, and she got the sense of shades, and she actually drew my face like a circle, and there’s eyes, nose, and mouth.”
Airene works for a property management client in the U.S. as part of their administrative team and has been with HireSmart for a year and a half. She said she loves working from home and being able to take care of her children.
She wants her children to get the best education possible, and she’s eager to support them however she can.
“I have my dreams for her, but as a mom, I’m here just to support whatever she wants to do in the future,” said Airene. “Even though I say I want her to be a lawyer, which is what I really wanted when I was a kid, but whatever she ends up doing when she grows up, I’m just here to support her. I want her to achieve whatever it is she wants.”
The virtual employee said she is grateful to HireSmart and CEO Anne Lackey. She said she’s not familiar with other companies offering such perks for the children of their employees.
“I just really want to say thank you, Anne,” she said. “I’m really grateful to HireSmart, not just for this opportunity but also for introducing me to my client. That alone really helps me a lot in supporting my kids and being able to take care of them while working here from home. This is a bonus. So really thank you so much. I know this will make a huge change in me and my baby’s life.”
HireSmart Virtual Employees has a philanthropic branch, HireSmart Cares, which provides scholarships and educational opportunities for youth both in the Philippines and U.S. HireSmart also provides its virtual employees with health and dental benefits.
There are many threats in the digital world, and it takes technical savvy to safeguard today's economy from malicious actors.
Remington Gurley, a 2023 high school graduate, wants to be on the front lines of that battle, and he's getting support from HireSmart Cares to prepare him for that role, receiving a $1,000 scholarship to attend the University of North Georgia, where he will major in cyber security.
Remington said a friend introduced him to the possibility of a career in digital safety.
"I knew I wanted to do something with computer science, but I didn't know what," he said. "And so my friend and somebody he knew were playing around with it one day. He said you want to join us, and I said, 'Sure." And it was super cool, the idea of ethical hacking."
Remington, a kicker on his high school football team, as well as a soccer player, has many interests, including computers, mountain biking, music, and aviation. He wants to fly planes one day.
But his faith is his central focus in life. Remington said he dedicated his life to Jesus Christ around the age of 8, and he's active at his church, Trinity Baptist, helping lead worship as a keyboardist.
"I started playing piano at age 6," he said. "I practiced and stuck with it, and I guess it's been 12 years now I've been playing."
He said playing in a praise band is different than performing alone, noting that in a band, you have to be aware of other players and not fill all the space, letting others shine musically.
Remington said he's worked at the church the past couple of years providing compter-tech, musical, and lighting assistance. He said Trinity worship leader Jeff Branson is a role model to him.
"These past couple of years, I've been hanging out with him and working with him a lot more," he said. "His impact has been huge on me. He's smart. It's very encouraging to see him lead other people. It's like, man, this is the guy I want to be like."
Remington spent several weeks after graduating high school leading worship at Camp Maranatha, where kids attend a Christian summer camp.
"To me, worship is one of the big ways you can connect and be in His presence," he said. "You feel you are with God, and I want them (the kids) to feel that feeling and to understand that the words we're seeing aren't just words on a screen. They're powerful and have meaning behind them."
While cyber security is his college major, the recent graduate doesn't close the door to a career in the ministry.
"I've had thoughts of graduating college and then maybe going into ministry somewhere," he said. "And that's one reason I enjoy leading camps and stuff in summer."
As he looks ahead, Remington knows he has the support of his parents, Todd and Brandy Gurley, who also have a daughter, Journey, an accomplished pole vaulter at Virginia Tech.
"Whatever I've wanted, my parents have always encouraged me, and their biggest thing is, 'Whatever you do, enjoy it, but also make sure you put that don't just halfway do it,'" he said. "Put 100% effort into whatever you do.'"
Remington also has the support of HireSmart Cares, which funds numerous workforce initiatives and scholarships to propel U.S. youth to a bright, productive future. The college-bound teen said he wants to repay HireSmart's generosity by giving back to his community after graduation.
"It's very encouraging and very helpful," he said of the scholarship. "College is expensive, and I hope they (HireSmart Cares) are going to be happy with what I do and happy with my success. And hopefully, after I come back, I can help in the community and give back what they gave me."
Donate And Help Kids Here.
Cristina and her sisters love their parents and poured their finances into helping them through medical hardships last year, but this generosity strained the ability of Cristina and her husband to fund their son’s education.
Thankfully, HireSmart Virtual Employees has stepped in to take that burden off Cristina’s back, providing an educational scholarship so her 7-year-old son, Myke, can attend private school this year.
“I am forever grateful for this scholarship,” said Cristina, a five-year HireSmart employee. “Education here in the Philippines is pretty expensive, and my son is the most important person in my life, giving him a quality education and providing him with all his needs is what matters to me. I was able to provide it to him because of HireSmart. This scholarship is a really great help for my family. And thank you for helping us Filipino virtual assistants, and we hope this opportunity will continue.”
Cristina said her son is smart, a “consistent honor student since nursery,” and loves karate.
“I enrolled him in karate this summer to see if he likes it because he’s an active kid,” she said. “So, in order to divert his energy, I enrolled him, and now he’s very interested. He just got promoted. He’s very interested to get that black belt.”
Cristina said Myke is especially proficient in math and has participated in Kumon, an educational network based in Japan.
“They focus on mental math,” she said. “He started when he was 6 years old. Right now, he’s already multiplying fractions. He’s very interested in Kumon, so we continued it.”
Cristina, who handles vacation rentals for a property management firm in the U.S., said her experience with HireSmart has allowed her to spend more time with her son and watch him grow up. Her husband is also a virtual employee.
“That’s the reason why I preferred to work remotely, so we can watch our son grow,” she said, adding that she and her husband, John, must be careful what they say and do because Myke is observant and mimics whatever they say or do. “In our household, we have to be very careful with our language and our actions because he is a very curious kid and he copies whatever we do, our habits, our words, our expressions, so we need to be careful as parents, especially nowadays with social media.”
HireSmart provides its virtual employees like Cristina with health and dental insurance, a work-from-home lifestyle, good pay, opportunities for leadership training, as well as an opportunity for educational scholarships for their children.
“I can really say that it (HireSmart) is a stable company, and I’m really thankful for the support,” she said. “If you need any help regarding your work, they’re also willing to give tips to help you with the training to give you more feedback. They’re a really supportive company, so I’m really glad I found HireSmart.”
Cristina also noted that if a client goes out of business or doesn’t work out, HireSmart will work with its virtual employees to get them placed with a new client.
“If you ever lose a client, they will really find a way for you to get another one,” she said.
Cristina said she didn’t want to compromise her son’s education because of medical bills, and she’s pleased she won’t have to because of HireSmart.
“I’m really happy with what I have right now,” she said. “I’m really happy with the company. Compensation is good. Training is good. The management, Anne, Neal, they’re really helpful. They’re hands-on. Just really thankful right now.”
Donate And Help Kids Here.
Tony White didn’t need college to get a foot forward in life. He got a good-paying job right out of high school with a construction company operating heavy equipment. And he got a welcome boost to start his career with a grant from HireSmart Cares.
The graduate of Jackson County High School in Hoschton, Georgia studied construction under instructor Jake Slusher and learned about heavy equipment primarily on simulators. But he turned the experience into the real deal, working machinery for Snellville-based road construction company, E.R. Snell Contractor, Inc., which handles a high volume of road projects in north Georgia.
“Mr. Slusher asked me if I’d like to do the heavy equipment class, and I was like, sure,” said White. “And after I started liking it and being good at it, he was like, ‘Would you like to work with ER Snell?’”
Well, heck yeah! White jumped at the chance. Now, he’s operating a bulldozer on ER Snell road construction sites.
“I’d like to work my way up in the company,” he said. “It (ER Snell) seems like a pretty darn good company.”
He said it feels good to get a nice paycheck right out of school. And he said he hopes the money can help him develop another skill, blacksmithing. White said he plans to save up enough money to purchase tools.
“I got to get a few paychecks first,” he said.
The recent graduate expressed gratitude for the boost he received from HireSmart Cares, which provided “Workforce Development Grants” for White and 13 of his Jackson County classmates who entered the workforce or the military directly out of high school.
“It will help me get a car,” said White.
HireSmart Cares encourages youth to find a career path that doesn’t involve taking on massive college debt without a plan to pay it off. The nonprofit organization supports agricultural and vocational programs that help students find fiscally rewarding career opportunities right out of high school. If you would like to donate, we would appreciate your donation. DONATE NOW
Kaylee Brown believes home is where the heart is. She feels connected to the land, the animals, and the people of her home community, and once she graduates from college, she wants to move back home and teach youth about the importance of agriculture and the joys it holds.
"I want to come back to Madison County," she said. "I like the community here, and we all kind of support each other."
HireSmart Cares is helping make an ag-education career a reality for Kaylee, rewarding the 2023 high school graduate with a $1,000 scholarship to assist her at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC). HireSmart funds numerous ag-related scholarships and initiatives to support a new generation of farmers and ag leaders who will feed the U.S. and the world in years to come.
Kaylee, the daughter of Ray and Suzanne Brown, said she's always been drawn to the outdoors. She hunts and fishes with her father and has enjoyed working with cattle. Her family has a couple of cow/calf pairs, and her uncle has a larger cattle operation, where she helps vaccinate the animals.
She also showed cows in livestock exhibits during high school, adding that the camaraderie among fellow show team members was special.
"It was like one big family," she said.
Kaylee wants to be like her former ag teacher, Kalie Blevins, who left education to run her company, Bold Spring Blooms. She said Blevins was caring, a wonderful instructor, and instrumental in getting her involved in floral design.
"Once she left, it really hit me how much she did for me and how she helped me break out of my comfort zone," said Kaylee. "I want to be that mentor one day for kids."
Kaylee expresses interest in teaching either middle school or high school, where she can help students as they explore what they want to do after grade school.
"We'll see," she said. "I'll just see where God takes me."
In her spare time, Kaylee enjoys music and singing in church. She also finds peace in making floral arrangements.
"It just calms me," said the recent graduate, who won floral competitions in high school.
Kaylee spent summer days between graduation and college babysitting six children between the ages of 2 and 9. Now, she's off to a new challenge. And she's grateful to HireSmart for making that road a little smoother.
"I want to thank you for helping make it possible for me to pursue my dream of becoming an ag teacher," she wrote in a "thank you" letter. "Your contribution to my education is so generous and will allow me to focus on my studies."
Donate And Help Kids Here.
When a home burns to the ground, there’s the loss of both past and future — the memories and the plans — along with a disorienting plunge into a chaotic present for families who escape the blaze minus all their belongings.
Day or night, it’s a nightmare.
Unfortunately, such tragedies are all too common. And we can’t help every suffering family. We don’t have that power. But here at HireSmart Cares, we do what we can to make life better for as many as possible.
HireSmart’s primary philanthropic focus is helping kids build a good life through a variety of vocational and agricultural scholarships and initiatives, but our nonprofit also focuses on helping people rebuild their lives, whether it’s with assistance for the local food bank or providing aid for families struggling after natural disasters, as we did when we helped 31 Filipino families after Typhoon Rai in 2021.
HireSmart answered the call again recently when one of its Filipino employees and her family lost their home in a devastating fire.
“Our home was engulfed in flames, resulting in the destruction of our belongings, cherished memories, and a place we once called our safe haven,” the employee said. “The fire spread rapidly, leaving us with nothing on our backs and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about our future.”
HireSmart jumped in with financial assistance to help the employee and her family in their recovery.
The grateful employee said assistance in a time of need restores “our faith in humanity and gives us the strength to move forward.”
“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel,” the employee said. “Your kindness and compassion make an immense difference in our lives and bring hope where it is desperately needed.”
Blake Wyatt just graduated from high school, but he's already taking big strides in the world of work.
Thanks to his new job at Georgia Metals in Danielsville, the 2023 Madison County High School graduate is earning a solid paycheck, an accomplishment not all young adults can claim so soon after high school.
"It was nice, real nice," said Blake, regarding his first paycheck from the family-owned company that specializes in manufacturing quality metal construction products. "It feels like I'm more independent now."
Blake also got a nice kickstart to his career with a "Workforce Development Grant" from HireSmart Cares, which helped him buy quality work boots, an essential part of his gear.
Blake's swift transition into the workforce is in line with HireSmart's mission: to help young people move straight into gainful employment after high school, avoiding the trap of deep college debt without a plan to pay it off. Blake shows that a good income and financial stability are achievable directly after high school.
The recent graduate emphasizes how much he's already learned in his young career.
"I've expanded my knowledge," he said. "I learned what measurements I need to know. I learned to cut metal more. I've learned a little painting here and there, and they've taught me a lot of new tools."
Blake, who studied welding at Madison County High School, has learned about "metal inert gas" (MIG) welding, but he wants to master "tungsten inert gas" (TIG) welding to advance his career.
"I want to go to Athens Tech to learn TIG welding and major in business," he said. "TIG welding jobs are among the best paying in the industry. If you can master it, you're guaranteed a spot at most any job."
Blake is also setting long-term financial goals. He recently opened a CD banking account for retirement and is saving for a truck.
The 18-year-old finds balance in his life through outdoor activities, enjoying fishing, dove hunting, and playing ball with his friends.
HireSmart celebrates the success of young professionals like Blake and aims to inspire more students to follow a similar path.
Blake said he appreciates the support from HireSmart.
"It really did help," he said. "I didn't have too much money set aside (before the job), and I was going to have to borrow money, but the grant helped me get some work boots."
Donate And Help Kids Here.
Nate Tucker is a high school senior and already living an adult grind. He works weekend nightshifts at Wendy’s, clocks in five days a week as a line support member at a Kubota plant, and maintains a high grade point average.
The 18-year-old has had some rough breaks at home over the years and was placed with family members who say he must leave their house as soon as he graduates.
“I’m having to find a new place to stay after graduation,” he said. “It’s nothing I’ve done. They just don’t want me there.”
But Nate has an advocate in his Work-Based Learning counselor, Kate Wilson, who sees a drive in the young man that many of his peers lack.
“We work with many kids who don’t care, who don’t work, and who don’t show the initiative and the drive,” she said. “They’re not dealing with half the issues in their life as Nate deals with. It is rewarding to work with students who care about their future. And it is rewarding to work with kids who work as hard as Nate works.”
Kate arranged an interview at Kubota for Nate. She said the gratitude he showed was touching. The two were walking back to the car at the plant after he got the job when Nate tapped her on the shoulder.
“He asked, ‘Can I hug you? Nobody’s ever done this for me,’” said Kate. “I think my job is important in many ways, but it’s not typically that important. To find a kid in a hard situation and put him in a job that potentially changes his life.”
Getting the Kubota job meant purchasing work boots, and not the cheap kind. Nate took his Wendy’s money and bought a good pair.
Kate asked him how he would manage financially that week.
“I’ll make do,” he said.
Kate then remembered Mark Lackey and HireSmart Cares.
“Mark came to a construction advisory committee meeting that I was also present at, and he talked about HireSmart and what the program does for students and what they’re able to sponsor,” she said.
Mark agreed to reimburse Nate for the cost of the boots, and the high schooler cashed the check a few days later.
“Because Mark acted so quickly, it really helped Nate, who is an independent 18-year-old paying for his own bills,” said Kate.
The moment highlights exactly what HireSmart Cares actually cares about - helping young people with initiative find a path to success, even if it means putting boots on their feet.
Nate said he works with power steering pumps and drive shafts at Kubota.
“With the drive shafts, you have to unwrap the covers and then get a bar code and stick into something with the driveshaft and keep up with it because if you don’t, it messes the whole thing out of the track,” he said.
Nate also enjoys chemistry and his composition class with Kenneth Powers, who said Nate shows a real drive to be his best.
“We live in an era when so many students take things for granted,” he said. “This student is not taking this for granted. He understands how important this is to his life script. This is his ticket to job satisfaction and success in life. And I think he’s going to run with it. I really do. Some people just need a little help. He’s a survivor.”
Donate And Help Kids Here.