The 2019 class of the Liberty County Summer Youth Employment Program graduated July 19 earning certificates of completion and their paychecks.
Thirty-three participants were acknowledged during the ceremony held at the County Commissioners’ Office. The youth employees varied in ages from 14-17 and were the second group of kids since the inception of the program.
Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel called the group amazing young people.
“They are amazing in every way that I see,” he said. “Parents you have every reason to be proud.”
Sprinkel said they received 68 applicants last year but received 78 applicants for this summer. He said the youth went through an intensive intake and application process which included having to write an essay.
“Once you reach adulthood and looking to get into jobs, writing is a big portion of what you have to do,” he said. “One of the things we wanted to do with this program is to make it a learning experience from beginning to the end. They had to learn how to fill out an application. Then they needed to learn how to do an interview. We started with 78 applicants…some did not make it but they learned how to fill out an application and do an interview and that was valuable.”
The summer youth employees learned life lessons such as making a great first impression, being to work on time, public speaking and working hard to be their best.
They worked in various county departments and even some local community businesses.
Commissioner Marion Stevens thanked the parents.
“Most of these kids don’t even have their driver’s license and most were at work on time,” he said. “And that was an extra burden on those parents. But these parents saw fit to start these children off in the right direction. Thank you parents.”
Chairman Donald Lovette turned toward the kids and held up a ruler.
“We use a ruler to measure many things,” he said. “How close are you to greatness? Are you this close,” He asked while placing his thumb one inch away from the tip of the ruler. “Or are you 30 rulers away?”
Lovette reminded the youth that they may come across stumbling blocks or become temporarily distracted but he urged them to, “Stay focused, determined, disciplined and patient.”
Murray, a former standout basketball player, said he was grateful for the opportunity in working with the youth throughout the summer.
“It’s been a great experience all summer,” he said. “I wanted them to see and understand just how important this is. These are real jobs that will go on their resumes. And I want them to understand that they are really separating themselves from their peers…they took the initiative to really step it up this summer.
Some of the youth employees expressed their gratitude and spoke about what they learned.
Thomas Healey worked at Geo-Vista Federal Credit Union over the summer.
“I’m about to be a senior in high school and I learned a lot of things from this program that I don’t think I would have gotten from just school,” he said. “This was a great first experience for me. They taught me a lot about taxes and finances in general and I really enjoyed it because I didn’t know any of this stuff previously.”
County Administrator Joey Brown thanked the youth and also thanked program coordinator Larry Murray Jr.
“They are our future and the people we are going to be leaning on as we go forward,” Brown said.
Brown added that the vision is to continue the youth program by creating the Liberty County Youth Commission, which is an idea already in the planning phase with the board of commissioners.