For many students, summer means swimming pools, suntans and shopping malls. But for 35 Riceboro teenagers, the summer break is an opportunity to gain real-world work experience while exploring career options.
“(The Career Readiness Program) was designed for them to figure out what they think they want to be before they go to college, so they don’t waste mom and dad’s money,” said Chris Stacy, Riceboro city council member and coordinator of the youth program.
“You get a chance to actually work in the field you think you want to be in, kind of figure out if this is really what you want to do hands-on, versus going to school for four years and figuring out ‘this is not what I really want to do,’” Stacy explained.
Now in its fifth year, the program affords Riceboro teens between the ages of 14 and 18 the chance to intern with local businesses and governmental entities, including the county commissioners’ office, the court clerk’s office, the health department, Chemtall, Interstate Paper and the Liberty County School System.
Stacy said that program participants also are required to attend other community events, such as board of education, county commission and city council meetings.
According to Stacy, 60 applicants vied for the 35 slots. Interviews were held during the last week of June, with the paid internships beginning June 30.
Program participants spend Monday through Thursday at their respective internships, learning the ins and outs of the jobs. Fridays are spent at the Riceboro Youth Center for various group activities.
Last Friday, Stacy hosted a career day. Guests included a representative from the Corps of Engineers, County Commissioner Marion Stevens and Riceboro Fire Department Chief Dennis Fitzgerald, speaking about careers in EMS and firefighting. County Commissioner Gary Gilliard presented on OMI and the public-works department, and a representative from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office spoke.
“They get a chance to see what’s really going on,” Stacy said. “We have some kids who actually came into the program wanting to be one thing, and they figured out once they got on the job that’s not really what they want to do.
“My goal is to one day do this county-wide, and the county actually help us fund it,” Stacy continued. “Maybe we hire 35 kids from each area, and we have 100 to 135 kids during the summer working.”
He said that the program not only offers kids the chance to earn a paycheck, but valuable insight into careers they are interested in pursuing.
“It’s been a blessing for a lot of the kids,” Stacy said. “Learning doesn’t stop just because they’re out for the summer, so we want to make sure they continue to learn so when school gets back, they’ll be just as sharp as they were when they got out.”