“High school kids are my favorite to mentor,” said Laya Cole, DTE retiree. “There’s that moment when I’m speaking with them and there’s a sparkle in their eye when they feel truly passionate about what we’re discussing. I look forward to seeing that look on their face. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Laya Cole worked at DTE Energy for nearly 40 years in customer service before she retired in December 2017. She started as a co-op when the company was Detroit Edison. After one year in her role, she was hooked and knew that DTE was where she wanted to be. Throughout her career, she held various roles within customer service, attended college and started a family. She also volunteered with her colleagues, a key pillar of DTE culture.
Today, Laya is retired but remains active in the community and within the DTE Alumni Network’s volunteering community.
During the summer, Cole is a mentor in DTE’s IMPACT program. IMPACT students work with college and DTE retiree mentors, including Laya, on projects around Cody High School and the nearby neighborhood. The students are assigned various tasks throughout the school and community such as landscaping, removal of classroom furniture and assisting with installing energy efficient lighting, while learning how to act in a working group environment. They are given opportunities to learn about different career options, including visits to DTE facilities.
“I loved volunteering when I was at DTE, and when I retired, I didn’t want to stop moving,” said Laya. “I can still provide leadership to these kids. I want them to be successful and empowered to be amazing at what they want to do!”
This year, the program has gone virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cole says that students have been able to learn new job skills and personal financial skills while discovering career options.
During the school year, Cole participates in the Midnight Golf Program. The after-school program is dedicated to equipping young adults with life skills, including college preparation, community activism and financial literacy as well as learning to play golf. More than 250 students from across Metro Detroit meet twice weekly for life lessons, golf lessons and a sit-down dinner. They also meet in small groups called “tee time” with various mentors. Come spring, they participate in a “Road Trip for Success” college tour, where they tour several universities and play golf on the road.
“I love tee time! When we get into different groups and speak with the kids, and it gives them a chance to talk. Each week there is a different topic where we offer them an opportunity to really speak their minds and express their feelings in an open forum that they might not regularly get. The rest is fun, but the relationships are so special,” said Laya.