HireSmart Cares founders Mark and Anne Lackey are addicted to entrepreneurship, having successfully run multiple multi-million dollar businesses.  

They love sharing tips with anyone aiming to launch a business. But their first word of advice is always — be ready to live frugally. 

"How many of you like to work and not get paid?" Anne asked a roomful of Melinda Cochran-Davis’s construction students at Jackson Empower College and Career Center in Jefferson, Georgia. 

No one responded or raised a hand. 

"No one? Well, then you probably don't need to go into business," said Anne. "As a business owner, we worked for years without paychecks. We worked for years making investments back into our business over and over and over again." 

Mark and Anne, who run multiple businesses in international hiring, real estate, and consulting, as well as operating a nonprofit, HireSmart Cares, emphasize that "bootstrapping" a business is all about commitment. 

There's no free time, and the responsibility is 24/7/365. There's no "off button." 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential  

"We worked seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for seven years before we went on a vacation," said Mark. "There were days when we needed to pay our employees and guess what? We didn't have enough money left to pay ourselves. Running a business is fun and exciting, but it is challenging. It is difficult." 

Mark and Anne talked about Madison County, Georgia, teenage entrepreneur Olivia Braswell, who runs her own homemade soap-making business, Proverbs 31 Farmstead. 

"When you start a business, there's a lot more to it than just owning a business and making money," said Anne. "It's an investment." 

Olivia owns three cows that supply the milk for her business. Mark and Anne asked students to consider all the responsibilities with the cows. Olivia had to purchase the cows and make sure they're fed and properly cared for. She milks them at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day. 

"Every day, seven days a week, 365 days, and she can't miss a day," said Mark. 

Anne said having a good product is not enough. People need to know about what you have to sell. She talked about developing a marketing budget. 

"You need customers; you need advertising," she said. "How are you going to pay for that?" 

Anne said she and Mark worked full-time jobs and invested a portion of their salaries into their businesses, never taking out loans. 

"You have to figure out how much money or time you are willing to invest in something to see if it's going to be successful," said Anne. 

Mark shared that he considered starting a hardware business, so he worked for free every weekend at a hardware store for several months to see what it took to run a hardware store, ultimately deciding he had no desire to start such a business. 

"It was a cheap investment, rather than buying a store or starting to buy nuts and bolts and screws and things and then starting my own hardware store," he said. "I invested in learning." 

Mark and Anne said entrepreneurship is all about marrying your passion for an idea with a commitment to make it work. 

"Find those things you enjoy already," he said. 

"Understand what you do best and what you're passionate about," said Anne. 

A student asked Anne what she loved most about being a business owner. 

"Service," she said, noting that she and Mark employ over 700 people. "I get to help change lives by helping people achieve their goals and giving them health care, dental care, and community." 

Anne said being a successful entrepreneur is rooted in passion and establishing a distinct quality of service. Seeking money for money's sake isn't enough. 

"When you love what you do, and you do your best every day, the money will show up," she said. 

After the talks, Mark and Anne chatted with students, fielded questions, and heard their ideas. 

"We're here to help you," said Anne. "Ask us anything." 

That's the spirit of HireSmart Cares. It's a quest to serve youth with time, teaching, tools, and technology so today's kids can be tomorrow's leaders. 

If you're interested in reading more about HireSmart Cares, click here

If you'd like to donate to support HireSmart Cares and its initiatives to support today's youth, click here. 

If you have ideas for supporting youth that you'd like us to hear, email us Info@HireSmartCares.org. 

Four Madison County, Georgia students traveled to Indianapolis recently and walked away with the fifth-place plaque in the National FFA Poultry evaluation "Career Development Event" (CDE).  

"We all truly wanted it," said team member Isabelle Williams, who was named the high individual in the written exam. "We wanted to win, and we worked so much with each other that we knew what we were good at, what we struggled with, and how to help each other through challenges." 

Williams was joined by George Parham, Devin Self, and Joshua Black, who was named high individual in the shell egg grading for interior and exterior factors. 

Participants in the poultry CDE select live meat-type chickens for broiler breeding, evaluate and place live egg-type hens, and rate the finished product by evaluating and grading ready-to-cook carcasses and parts of chickens and turkeys. 

HireSmart U.S. Agricultural Assistance — Kaylee's Story 

The Madison County team members got a boost from HireSmart Cares, which helped cover their travel expenses. HireSmart assists the next generation of farmers in a variety of ways, including covering travel costs for students to agriculture-related competitions.  

HireSmart Cares recently donated $50,000 to the Madison County FFA to expand the high school ag barn, allowing more students who don't live on farms to raise livestock and learn career skills in ag.  

Williams, who is interested in becoming a large animal veterinarian, said poultry judging success is about "paying attention to the small details" and helping each other. 

"That's the big factor in poultry judging — picking out all the defects from various poultry products," she said. "We have to judge individually, but then we would all share our suggestions on ways to improve and avoid missing things." 

Williams said participation in ag activities helps youth understand all the work that goes into food production, which she said is often overlooked. 

HireSmart hopes to raise awareness of the need for a new generation of farmers. "No farms = No food" is a succinct message that strikes home for HireSmart co-founders Mark and Anne Lackey, who commit to doing whatever they can to support youth and their ag career development. 

If you support that aim, consider donating to HireSmart's ag initiative here

HireSmart Supports Top FFA Ag Communications Team in the U.S. 

Katie Carrouth and her teammates, Abbi Adams, Anna Moon, and Anna Kate Mathis, laugh at the video of their surprised faces when they learned that, "Yes!" they're the best in the nation. 

The Madison County FFA Ag Communications team earned first in the U.S. at the 96th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo.  

"All of us were so shocked, and since then, we've all re-watched the clip so many times, just laughing at our own expressions," said Carrouth. "It was super sweet to have that moment filmed so we can all remember it." 

Adams, who placed sixth overall in the individual competition, said the moment was intense. 

"To me, it felt we were the only people in the room," she said. "All of my senses were both heightened and subdued at the exact same moment. It was a feeling I had never felt before. When they announced the second-place team and we realized we had won, I remember a feeling of shock. It wasn't until we left the stage that my sobs began, and I realized my hands were numb from stress." 

The quartet got a boost from HireSmart Cares, a nonprofit focused on helping youth develop job skills, which provided grants for Madison County FFA members, including the ag communications team, to cover costs associated with the trip. 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential    

A primary focus of HireSmart is encouraging youth involvement in agriculture, which involves spreading the word about career options and the relevance of ag in so many aspects of life. 

That's also the focus of ag communications teams — providing the public with a greater understanding of agriculture. 

Adams, a student at Wesleyan College majoring in English education and minoring in communications, said the importance of ag communications often goes overlooked. 

"Without agricultural communications, nobody would know anything relating to the agriculture industry," she said. "'Ag Comm' hopes to create advocacy and transparency. It is important for the future of the agriculture industry as it will help connect consumers to farms and major corporations." 

Carrouth, a singer/songwriter and music producer getting a Bachelor of Arts in Music at Georgia College and State University, said the agricultural communications focus in high school "allowed me to branch out and try more things that challenged me which has helped tremendously at college." 

HireSmart U.S. Agricultural Assistance — Kaylee's Story 

She wasn't raised on a farm, "so I always felt a bit left out of that sector," but she has relatives and peers in agriculture. 

"I saw the need for bridging the gap between non-traditional and traditional agriculturalists through activities of the FFA such as the agricultural communications CDE," said Carrouth.  

  

She added that reaching consumers to educate them about agriculture is "one of the most important things for the agriculture industry to focus on." 

Adams and Carrouth said the team's first-place finish in the U.S. was a byproduct of the companionship they felt as they worked toward a shared goal. 

"The four-person team dynamic is really special because it allows four separate approaches to creativity to be combined into one cohesive project," said Carrouth. "This competition is a lot of work and has many parts to complete, so having a team like ours is super important. As far as taking first place, I feel that it comes down to our passion for it. We all wanted to do well, so we put every ounce of effort we could into it. We are also very good friends, so teamwork skills came naturally." 

HireSmart Filipino Scholarships: Shannen's Story 

Adams said the "contest brought us closer than we ever imagined." 

"While we worked through every step of the way, we understand each other as well as the vision we hoped to create," she said. "We practiced compassion while simultaneously holding each other accountable… We wanted to keep practicing and tweaking the fine details because we wanted to be the best, and we didn't quite know what that meant at a national level. We all care about this contest so incredibly much. We didn't only want to win for ourselves; we wanted to win for each other." 

HireSmart Cares U.S. Career Assistance — Construction Class Story 

HireSmart Cares applauds the FFA team for their commitment to each other and their hard work toward a shared goal. If you have a workforce development idea and would like to share it with us, email info@hiresmartcares.org. To contribute to our efforts to help today's youth be tomorrow's leaders, click here

Ava Willoughby recently got a taste of being a veterinarian when she had to care for her sick goat, Lupe, through the night. 

“We had to give her medicine throughout the night, every four hours,” said the eighth grader, who watched Lupe recover and regain her appetite. 

Ava loves the feeling of helping animals and plans to make that her career. 

“I like being around animals, and I feel like that’s what makes me happy,” she said of her desire to be a veterinarian for both big and small animals. 

HireSmart Cares wants Ava to thrive in that role. So HireSmart steps in with support for Ava and many other youth aiming to gain skills now for a brighter tomorrow. 

For instance, the nonprofit is covering the cost of an ag barn expansion in Madison County, Georgia so kids who don’t live on a farm can learn to care for livestock. HireSmart also funds ag-related scholarships and a variety of grants for youth interested in ag careers. 

Ava was able to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National FFA Convention in October with financial assistance from HireSmart for lodging, travel, and fees. 

She said she enjoyed the trip and had a chance to hear from a variety of people about their agricultural backgrounds. 

“It was fun, definitely really cold,” said Ava about the convention. “We had a lot of entertainment. We went to the zoo and then we had our sessions where we went and listened to people talk about their experiences.” 

The daughter of Josh and Brandi and the third of four children is in her first year showing goats with FFA. Ava has two goats, Peaches and Lupe, and will soon add a third, Ginga. 

“A few of my friends show, and I thought it would be really fun, and since goats aren’t the hardest to show for your first year,” she said. “The cows take a lot of work, probably double the time you spend with a goat.” 

Still, Ava said she will probably show cows during high school. 

“I’ve thought about having a cow,” she said. “I don’t feel like I want to do it right now, but I definitely want to when I’m in high school.” 

Ava participates on the middle school livestock judging team, learning to perform market evaluations. 

“If you’re judging your market animals for the meat, you want them to be bigger, and you don’t want them to be fat,” she said. “You want them to be bigger and muscular. And then for the breeding, you want them to have a good structure so they can hold up when carrying (offspring).” 

She’s also a middle school FFA officer this year, serving as the parliamentarian. 

“We’ll do a slideshow of how agriculture relates to what we’re talking about in that meeting,” said Ava. “The last meeting we did basketball. We stayed for the middle school basketball game, and I did a slideshow over how that related to agriculture.” 

She talked with fellow FFA members about how the basketball flooring is hardwood, the ball is made from cowhide, and the first-ever basketball goals were peach baskets. 

Ava smiles when talking about animals, including her dogs, Ivy and Banjo, and she’s looking forward to a future looking out for all creatures big and small as a veterinarian. 

HireSmart aims to help Ava and her peers take those steps to success, making the future brighter for all. 

Ava’s mom, Brandi, said she’s grateful for the support. 

“Being able to attend the National FFA Convention was definitely a privilege, said Brandi. “Ava was able to gain a larger perspective of the FFA organization and the opportunities it can provide. We are grateful that HireSmart Cares was willing to help provide Ava with an opportunity to expand her knowledge and build upon her success with FFA and her future endeavors.” 

If you’re interested in helping HireSmart support youth like Ava through a wide variety of workforce development initiatives, click here to contribute. 

Humans need four walls and a roof, food, running water, electricity, and furniture. 

Each generation must meet the hands-on demands of supplying such things, and HireSmart Cares wants today’s kids to have the tools and teaching they need to be self-sufficient in meeting society’s basic needs in the future. 

That’s why HireSmart funds U.S. agricultural initiatives, helping the next wave of farmers who will put food on our plates with scholarships, grants, program funding, and more. 

HireSmart also supports U.S. workforce development in the same way: putting quality boots on the feet of high school graduates entering the workforce, providing scholarships for students going into trades programs, backing young entrepreneurs with seed money for their business plans, and more. It’s all part of the “leave-it-better-than-you-found-it” approach to the world that underpins HireSmart’s core values. 

The nonprofit also supports local construction teachers with funding to supplement their classes with construction materials, tools, and funding for travel so students can broaden their perspectives on their options. 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential  

Madison County High School construction teacher Zach Carithers and Jackson County College & Career Center construction teacher Cody Dyer were both presented with $2,000 checks from HireSmart to help their students this school year. 

Students in Carithers’ and Dyer’s classes participate in Skills USA competitions, where they get a chance to shine, show what they’ve learned in construction class, and gain confidence that they can venture into adulthood with solid, hands-on skills, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, welding, and more.  

Both teachers expressed gratitude to HireSmart for the grants they're using to cover membership costs, entry fees, and lodging for students participating in regional, state, and national Skills USA competitions. 

Some students come from tough situations, and the skills they learn can be a ticket out of financial hardship. The boost from HireSmart helps such kids make that connection between learning and living a good life. Dyer recalled one financially challenged student walking to the school in the early morning darkness to meet the group that assembled pre-dawn for a Skills USA event. Dyer was struck by his commitment to be a part of the program, even without transportation.  

“He was the first kid there; he was waiting on us when we got there,” he said.  

Dyer said there’s a mix of talent levels in his classes.  

“You have a wide range, and we have some kids who never use a hammer and some kids who have used power tools on their dad’s farm for forever,” he said.  

Construction is taught in three levels, with students learning the basics in “Construction 1." 

Carithers said he holds “Math Mondays” with beginning students, who learn about measuring principles and see how math is fundamental to all building. Students also use hand tools to build birdhouses.  

“Now we’re doing power tools,” he said. “They (the students) had 1’-by-1’ sheets of plywood, and they cut them into a jigsaw puzzle.”  

Carithers said his intermediate students are working on home construction.  

“We built mini houses, 4’-by-3’ tall walls on a platform floor and then gable roofs,” he said. “But I gave each one of them a pitch, so they all had to figure out the pitch of the roof to figure out how to cut the rafters.”  

He said his “Construction 3” class works on more challenging projects.  

“We’re going to build three 8-foot walls, one with a door, one with a window, and one with a partition,” said Carithers. “And then we’re going to sheath one of them- can’t afford to sheath them all- and put siding on that one wall and shingles on that one part.”  

The construction teacher said his class is working with Madison County’s JROTC program to put up a 14’-by-14’ foot shed for the JROTC.  

“We’ll put the footings in, build the flooring, put walls up, tin the roof, everything,” he said. “So that’s a huge opportunity. Our kids get to practice. It will take us two weeks.”  

Dyer said he loves seeing students have fun in his class and learn new skills.  

“We worked with a table saw today, and we’re going to build a star,” said Dyer. “We’ll take a miter saw and cut it at certain angles, then put it together, and it makes a star. It’s pretty cool. You can hang it on the wall.”  

Carithers and Dyer envision their students taking their skills beyond high school toward productive lives, providing four walls and a roof, food, running water, electricity, and furniture for themselves, their loved ones, and our society. HireSmart Cares pictures this, too, and is dedicated to helping kids help themselves, hoping those students will also strive to leave the world better than they found it.  

If you have an idea about how HireSmart Cares can support the next generation, email us at info@hiresmartcares.com. See more about us at hiresmartcares.org.  

Jonalyn was in a terrible position. Should she use limited family funds to pay for a quality education for her daughter this year or allocate that money to her special needs son, who needs speech therapy?



Thanks to HireSmart, Jonalyn doesn't have to make that tough choice. She now has the money to do both after receiving an education scholarship for her 5-year-old daughter, Marciella Audrey.



"When I received the news that I was one of the people that got picked (for the scholarship), I cried," she said. "I literally cried. I cried my heart out. I was so thankful."



Jonalyn and her husband, Christopher, have a 9-year-old son who has been diagnosed with "echolalia," which is the non-voluntary repetition of another individual's speech. She said therapy has helped him communicate with the family at a basic level.



"He's doing speech therapy, and if we don't do that, we have a hard time communicating with him," she said. "But since we started doing that, he improved a lot."



Jonalyn sees the therapy as essential, but she also wants her daughter to get a strong start on her educational journey, and she says enrolling her in a quality school is a must.



"I don't want to choose between what our special needs kid needs and what our daughter needs," she said.



Jonalyn has been employed by HireSmart Virtual Employees for four years, serving a property management company in the U.S., primarily handling lease renewals.



She applied for one of 20 scholarships HireSmart Virtual Employees offered this year to the children of its employees through its nonprofit arm, HireSmart Cares. HireSmart is the leader in the virtual employment market in looking out for its staff, offering good wages, health and dental insurance, quality training and support, leadership courses, and educational scholarships for the children of its employees.



"What HireSmart has been doing helping kids, that's different," said Jonalyn. "I've never heard of a company that does that, you know."



Jonalyn smiles, talking about Marciella Audrey. She says her child is energetic and loves to dance and draw. Jonalyn is a singer and used to perform mellow love tunes with a band but now enjoys the occasional karaoke party.



"I kind of want her (Marciella Audrey) to try singing as well," she said.



Jonalyn says her daughter is young and is not fully aware yet of her brother's challenges, but she said understanding will come with time.



"We kind of just tell her that your big brother doesn't understand the way you understand, and he's going to a different school than you," she said. "She says, 'OK.' But you know, she's 5. She'll understand that later on with guidance."



Jonalyn said she is elated to give both children what they need, and she voiced gratitude to HireSmart CEO Anne Lackey.



"It is an honor to have been chosen as a recipient, and I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity given," she said. "This program will make a tremendous difference in our kids' lives."

"An answered prayer" — that's how Ina describes the educational scholarship for her son through her employer, HireSmart Virtual Employees.



Ina, an employee of HireSmart since May 2022, and her husband, Mark, have two young boys, Isaiah Ambert, "Ice," 4, and Ishaan Amani, "Amani," 2.



Ina applied for an educational scholarship for her son, "Ice," through HireSmart so that he could attend a local Kumon school, which specializes in teaching reading and math to young children. HireSmart CEO Anne Lackey informed Ina that her family received one of 19 HireSmart scholarships this school year.



"I was so thankful, she said. "I felt so blessed in that moment when Anne confirmed that I got the scholarship. I was actually thanking God for it because I prayed for it. My husband and I both prayed for it (the scholarship)."



Ina shed tears when talking about receiving the scholarship, noting that her family could not enroll Ice in Kumon without financial assistance. She said giving her kids the best education possible is a priority for the family.



"If not for the scholarship, we wouldn't be able to have our child enrolled in the school," she said. "So it's really a great help for us. We can see how our kid is developing and see how much he has learned."



Ina said Ice is an inquisitive, confident, and empathetic boy who loves watching "Blippi," learning about animals, and is fascinated with excavators, garbage trucks, and other big machinery.



"He's also a part of our church choir, so he loves to sing," she said, adding that he always asks questions about whatever he sees and hears.



Ina and her family attend church on Sundays and spend time doing fun activities on Saturdays.



"We go out or play in indoor playgrounds," she said. "We also love swimming, so we go to beaches whenever there's a time."



Ina said her son enjoys attending school and asks about it when he's not there.



"They (Kumon) are teaching the kids to have independence when it comes to learning to study at home," she said. "I would say that it's really true because, at 4, our child can already study independently."



Ina said her job at HireSmart working for a U.S. client in the community association management industry is a blessing.



She enjoys being able to work from home and watch over her young children.



"As a parent, you will always think of your kids whenever you're not at home, so I believe it will be really tough working in an office-based company right now for me," she said. "So HireSmart is very a big blessing for us."

Vanessa says her daughter is a “happy kid,” and she wants Jana Valerie to stay that way.



Thankfully, a scholarship through HireSmart Cares will do a lot to keep the smile on the seventh grader’s face since she can now remain at a private school in the Philippines with her friends.



Vanessa, a HireSmart employee, says a private school education is far superior to a public school experience in the Philippines.



“I’m also a graduate of private school, so I know the quality of education it can give to my daughter,” she said. “I’m so thankful to HireSmart for helping me sustain the education of my daughter.”



HireSmart provides its employees with medical and dental insurance, leadership training opportunities, and family scholarships, as well as a work-from-home lifestyle for good wages.



Vanessa and her husband, Edgar, have two children, Jana and a son, Josiah Vans, who just started college and plans to be a civil engineer.



The family could afford to send both to private school, but with Josiah moving to college, where costs are double or triple the grade school expenses, Vanessa and Edgar needed to enroll Jana in a public school.  



“She (Jana) didn’t complain; she understood our financial status, but I know, as a mom, she would want to retain her school,” said Vanessa.



She added that Jana was “so happy” when she learned she could stay at the private school with her friends. Jana plans to be an architect one day.



“If by God’s will, they will both be successful, that’s really great to have an architect and a civil engineer at the same time in the family,” said Vanessa.



The proud mom says her daughter is a “very friendly, positive, outspoken kid” and the “joker of her class.” She doesn’t remember her ever getting lower than a 90 on tests.



“I’m not really the type of mom who would push her, but she has that determination to really do well in school,” she said.



Jana participates in math and badminton clubs, and the family plays badminton on the weekends.



“We’re playing with her whenever we can, me and my husband,” she said.



Vanessa has served a community association management client in the U.S. for four years.



“I enjoy the work very much,” she said. “I think I’m the longest-staying Filipino assistant in the (client’s) company. They treat me with respect. It’s a fun environment. There’s pressure, but you can’t really feel it when you’re having fun with your co-employees.”



Vanessa said she also enjoys working for HireSmart, which hires virtual employees to work with their U.S.-based clients. She said she’s unaware of other companies providing families of their virtual employees with scholarships for education.



She thanked HireSmart co-founder and CEO Anne Lackey for helping her family.



“I’m happy we have this offered, and I would like to personally express how grateful I am to Anne and HireSmart for thinking about the employees,” she said. “This is a very good program for the employees because it affects our loved ones. And we are much more appreciative and motivated to work if our loved ones are happy. For me, that’s really true. They are the reason why I’m working hard.”

Our food doesn't grow in grocery stores.             

That's one of the first agricultural lessons a child should learn in life, the fact that a lot of hard work is involved before any bite we take, from milking cows to planting and harvesting crops to transporting food from farms to stores.

The farm-to-table journey is a web of human collaboration, know-how, and daily effort.

HireSmart Cares, a 501c3, supports its local farming community and wants to see the next generation of farmers succeed. That's why HireSmart supports the ag community from every angle, whether it's providing scholarships for students pursuing ag-related degrees or committing to 25 percent of livestock housing costs at the soon-to-be constructed ag center so students who don't live on farms can take on the responsibilities of animal care and perhaps venture into an ag career.

HireSmart U.S. Agricultural Assistance — Kaylee's Story

HireSmart is always asking, "How can we help?" So, it provides aid in various ways, such as awarding a grant to a local teenage soap maker to purchase a milk machine to use with her cows that supply the milk for her soap.

The nonprofit provided a grant for Madison County's October Pioneer Harvest Festival for children's "Farm Fun Zone," which was used to purchase miniature tractors so kids could feel the thrill of being a "farmer" while waving at mom and dad.

HireSmart Cares has a simple mission: "helping kids." We're always eager to support the next generation with tools, technology, time, and teaching. We're always searching for children and teens who aim to better themselves and be tomorrow's leaders. We want to give those young people that extra boost to succeed.  

Our nonprofit supports the next generation in three areas of giving:

  1. Supporting young farmers
  2. Supporting the children of our Filipino employees with educational scholarships
  3. Supporting U.S. careers through workforce development programs, scholarships, and grants

HireSmart U.S. Career Assistance — Jeremiah's Story

"I have witnessed the impact of Hiresmart Cares from an educational and industry standpoint, and the contributions made by them are life-changing for students starting their careers," said Jake Slusher, former construction teacher and current Field Training Director for E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. "Hiresmart Cares helps students overcome unforeseen expenses that general scholarships do not cover. They have helped students entering trades buy tools, purchase boots to keep them comfortable at work, uniforms/work attire, and provide funds for transportation. Many scholarships require students to go to college or enter a certain field, but Hiresmart Cares puts the student's dreams first by helping them in many different industries, including healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and business entrepreneurship."

Help us help kids. Do you have an idea of how HireSmart can support the next generation? If so, contact us at Info@HireSmartCares.org.

Jeremiah Weaver marched across the graduation stage in May and took his high school diploma in hand. Soon, he had a sizable paycheck in his possession, too. 

The 18-year-old Madison County High School graduate is working nights at Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment.  

"I like it," he said. "It's something new. We build upper frames for the 308 excavators." 

Jeremiah got a financial boost before he started his Caterpillar career with a "Workforce Development Grant" from HireSmart Cares that provided funds for quality work boots.  

"They're good boots," he said. "I wear them eight hours a day, every day." 

Jeremiah says each shift starts with a safety meeting.  

"And then you go set up your area, and you build your part, which is your upper frame, and weld everything together, and then you push it through a robot," he said. "There's a post where you build the part and tack everything together, and you take the part that you tacked together and put it in the robot, and the robot does the full welds onto the part." 

The recent graduate, who was introduced to welding at Madison County High School by ag teacher Joshua Daniels, says Caterpillar provides a lot of opportunities for him, but he's planning to start his own welding company in a few years.  

"There are a lot of ways you can move up at Caterpillar," he said. "But I'm going to start my own welding company. I want to go to Athens Tech to get my business degree. It will probably be about five years before I can (start my business) because I want to do it right and have enough money to start it the way I want to." 

Jeremiah, who likes to hunt and fish, said it feels great to earn a living right out of high school.  

"It’s a good paycheck, too,” he said. “The last one was $1,400 for two weeks.” 

Jeremiah’s story is exactly what HireSmart Cares hopes to see: a young person introduced to a career skill in grade school and then making the most of that knowledge with a good-paying job after graduation. HireSmart funds numerous workforce development programs, grants, and scholarships to support young people in their quest to better themselves and their communities.