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Summer program helps youth pick careers
The youth participants and coordinators of the Career Readiness program gather together for a photo with the Liberty County Board of Commissioners
Youth participants and coordinators of the city of Riceboros Career Readiness program gather for a photo with the Liberty County Board of Commissioners after Riceboro City Councilman Chris Stacy explained the program to the commissioners during a meeting this summer. - photo by Photo by Tiffany King

Career Readiness, Riceboro’s summer youth program, gave youth insight into different careers and a chance to be a part of the workforce.

The program was started in 2009. Riceboro City Councilman Chris Stacy said the council wanted to give back to the community. Mayor Bill Austin and the council decided to invest money into Riceboro’s youth.

“We have approximately 900 residents in Riceboro, and we figured out that 225 of those residents are youth. We figured that if we’re not impacting their lives then we’re not doing our part,” Stacy said.

Career Readiness matches youth with a career in which they are interested during the summer. The ultimate goal is for youth to understand what type of careers they want — and don’t want — before heading to college.

“We’ve had ninth-graders in the program, who’ve stayed in the program for four years. So by the time they get ready to go to Tuskegee (Institute) they’ll say, ‘You know what, Mom, I don’t want to be an engineer. That’s not really what I want to be.’ We don’t want you to go to college and waste your mom and dad’s money,” Stacy said.

The program is for four weeks. Participants work four days a week and are paid $5 an hour for 40 hours at work and Friday workshops. Youth are chosen through an interview process with a panel. They are asked questions such as what they can bring to the program and
career plans.

The first week is orientation, which covers how to dress properly, how to perform at their jobs and social skills.

This past summer, youth worked at various sites such as Chemtall, the Shuman Recreation Center, Hinesville City Hall and the Liberty County courthouse annex.

Participants fill out timesheets and have employers evaluate their progress.

Marilyn Creech-Harris is the program coordinator.

During the last workshop, in July, she reviewed protocol for arriving at work late, encouraged youth to not become lazy on the job and shared the many positive evaluations they received.

Friday workshops also featured guest speakers from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement, military and county.

One guest speaker was Dr. Bryan Knakiewicz, an assistant professor of civil-engineering technology at Savannah State University. He talked to the youth about engineering and had them build a PVC wind turbine.

Other workshop activities included a college fair, finance class and a cultural heritage tour.

Mikia Frazier, who is a 2015 graduate of Liberty County High School who now attends Spelman College, participated in the program throughout high school.

“From a student’s perspective, this program is one that allows us to get into the real world because at 14 years old, 15 years old, most children can’t get a job,” Frazier said. “So the Career Readiness program takes you as young as 14. It taught me how to behave in a career-oriented environment. From the beginning of the program, they teach us how to act in our specific career position, and once we get into our jobs, at first we are unsure how to get into the things at our jobs. But by the end of the program, you’re an official employee. You know how to get a job and how to participate within the different things at your job.”  

Stacy hopes to expand the program.

“This program is not just a Riceboro program. My desire is to one day see it in every city in the county,” he said. “The other goal is to have a summer program with the college kids. The thing that disturbs me the most is when I see an engineer (student) come home during the summertime and they’re at McDonald’s flipping hamburgers, and they don’t get to experience what they learned in college. If we can get the city and county to pay half and then get the business to pay half, we’ll get some good employees, and they’ll move back to the county after they graduate from college.”

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