Though she’s shown a capacity for working with kids, it’s still Ashanti Cameron’s dream to become a veterinarian.
Thanks to the Boys and Girls Club Liberty County unit, and WorkSource Coastal, Cameron displayed a skill set that may not have surfaced otherwise.
What makes Cameron’s situation special is she was a special needs student. And her work with the Boys and Girls Club has led her to see that there is more out there for her.
“It has opened her eyes that she can do more, that she does not have to box herself in,” said NaKisia Sims, her former teacher at Liberty County High School. “There are opportunities out there for her; we just have to help her find them.”
Cameron’s learning disability means taking tests often get in the way of advancement. Tests often are a barrier for young people such as Cameron, including tests to be certified as a teacher’s aide.
“What is missing is that resource we need for students with a learning disability to take the test and pass them,” Sims said. “They can do the job.
But by having that test in place, it’s a barrier they have to cross. Even though she is a student with special needs, she can work and she is good at what she does. But she can’t be certified because of the restraints placed on her with her disability.”
The program with WorkSource Coastal has given Cameron experience she needs, and Sims advocates for ways to help students with disabilities to get hands-on experience. Another barrier is students with such special needs can stay in school up to age 21, but not after.
“There are few options for them,” Sims said. “They can’t get into college because of placement tests. She’s good at teaching. She’s good with students, she’s good with kids. But she’s good at what she does. What we’re trying to do is make people aware there are people who have disabilities who can overcome them.”
The Boys and Girls Club has worked with WorkSource Coastal to provide extra staff needed to help with the kids during the summer, and Cameron had her contract extended to continue her work.
“We recognize what’s on paper. But we also recognize her abilities,” WorkSource Coastal executive director Sheron Morgan said. “We work with her to polish the abilities she does have, so that when she is ready to go out and find a more permanent job, she is able to thrive in that environment. So we wanted to work a little longer with her.”
It’s also been a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club and Cameron’s story fits right in the club’s mission, said Mark Lindsay, CEO of the Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club, the Liberty unit’s parent chapter.
“We’re making great productive citizens, someone you would want to be your neighbor. And that’s what Boys and Girls Club is all about,” he said. “Thanks to WorkSource Coastal, they have opened this up to kids who would be outside the system.
“This is what having a Boys and Girls Club in Liberty County is all about. It’s about having opportunities for the kids, especially for the ones who need it the most. That’s what we’re here for — that’s what all Boys and Girls Clubs are here for.”
WorkSource Coastal is hoping to get more young people to call upon its services in matching them with jobs and future careers.
“WorkSource prepares people for jobs they want and jobs that are in high demand,” Morgan said.
The program that led to Cameron working with the Boys and Girls Club is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor and the Technical College System of Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development.
“We receive youth funding to ensure the youth who are in need are able to participate what we call work experience,” Morgan said. “So we facilitate a summer program. Ashanti is able to extend her work experience so we can work with her more closely.”
WorkSource Coastal’s mission is to provide employment and training for those ages 16-24 who are in school and out of school. The agency focuses on career and educational development, work readiness training and work experience placements based on the client’s area of interest. Many of the youth served lack resources and face barriers, according to the agency.
“We do have low numbers when it comes to serving the youth,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, this will help us in this aspect. We are pretty much known for the summer program but we provide these services year round.”
Though Sims isn’t Cameron’s teacher these days, they stay in constant touch, and Sims also praised the Boys and Girls Club for being in continual contact with her. Sims also proudly displayed a book Cameron helped write, with her own story of a girl who finds a magic wand on a roadside and helps another girl in school, and even provided the illustration for her tale.
“I think it’s amazing,” Sims said.