Students representing the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District have formed a partnership with business leaders to foster career development and confidence that will last a lifetime.

More than 60 students recently were matched with business professionals for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s “Take a Future Business Leader to Lunch” event at the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center. The keynote speaker was Yolanda Ortiz, the school district’s assistant superintendent of business services, a former member of the Future Business Leaders of America and a Santa Maria High School graduate.

Santa Maria, Ernest Righetti, Pioneer Valley and Delta high schools were all proudly represented, according to Cindy Quaid of the Santa Maria High Business Department.

With the help of business mentors, throughout the year the students will continue gathering information about American business enterprises and perform specialized community projects. They will also learn what it takes to join the workforce.

Delta High business teacher Emma Rodriguez said the students keyed in on how businesses were formed step-by-step.

“This annual event is one that students look forward to as the networking opportunities are invaluable,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody realizes how prepared they are for the work of work.’‘

For Delta High School senior Maria Salinas, who was matched with a business partner from the Central Coast Winery, the time was well spent.

“It was really interesting because it gave all of us an opportunity to interact and learn more about the businesses right here in Santa Maria, what they need and have to offer,’’ Salinas said.

— Kenny Klein is the media contact for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.