The Coastal Workforce Investment Board on Wednesday hosted a Summer Youth Work Experience closeout celebration and symposium at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
The summer work experience was the culmination of the Coastal Workforce Service’s inaugural yearlong youth program, funded by the Workforce Investment Act. Representing nine Coastal Georgia counties, 125 youth aged 16-21 completed the program.
Coastal Workforce Services Executive Director Odie Donald opened the ceremony with remarks.
“You’re here today because you have taken the opportunity to kind of expose yourself to something different,” he said. “There are a lot of other people today who are operating in their same box … by exposing yourself to this program, and the things that you’re going to learn today, you’re exposing yourself to things outside that box.”
Following remarks by the Rev. William Miller, chairman of the Coastal Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette delivered the keynote address.
Lovette said that he had been thinking recently that everyone has a story, before segueing into the theme of his speech: “Your story is not an excuse.”
“I’m not supposed to be here, based on my story and where I come from,” Lovette told the youthful audience. “But I am not the only one. So, your story is no excuse for not being successful in life.”
Following the address, Donald presented Lovette with a certificate of appreciation for his support of the program.
Kenya Cabine, a radio personality from E-93, then hosted a “Dress for Success” fashion show, intended to show the program participants how to dress — and how not to dress — for a job.
“Everybody knows that you only get one time to make a first impression,” Cabine said. “You have to be smart when dressing for the job.”
Program participants modeled outfits in front of their peers, who collectively decided whether the attire was appropriate for a work environment.
After the fashion show, the 125 program participants were presented with certificates of recognition for completing the 2014 Summer Youth Work Experience.
“(The closeout ceremony) is really the most important because they have all spent eight weeks on a work site, and nine out of every 10 have never worked before,” Donald said. “They got eight weeks with some very reputable companies who took the time to help them through those work challenges.”
He said that the program’s first year was a great success, and he looks to triple next year’s participation to about 400 kids.
The symposium continued until 4 p.m. with representatives from the U.S. Army, Coastal Pines Technical College and Savannah Technical College manning informational booths while other guests gave motivational speeches and six different workshops focused on jobs, financial literacy and success strategies.
These workshops, presented by YouthBuild, 100 Black Men of Savannah, Telamon, Georgia Power, Coastal Logistics Group and MLE Inc., were designed to educate the participants on what it takes to become a better and more successful adult, according to Assistant Director of Coastal Workforce Services Sheron Morgan.
“Coastal Workforce Services has received a charge from the executive director to serve as many youths as possible in Long and Liberty County. They’re rural counties, so a lot of the youth don’t know about our services,” Morgan said. “The main reason for us being here today is so that the youth in this area will come out and learn about our services.”
Coastal Workforce serves 10 counties altogether, including Liberty, Long, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, McIntosh and newly added Screven.
Breanne Ross, 21, said she came from Bulloch County to gain knowledge and guidance at the event. She eventually wants to work for Homeland Security.
“I’m young, but everything is changing as I become an adult,” Ross said. “It’s getting harder to get in the workforce because you need more education, work experience and things that make you stand out in comparison to other people that want the job. So they have helped me develop skills and make me more confident in myself.”
Donald said Coastal Workforce Services plans to host several youth symposiums next year in each of the 10 counties it serves because of the success of this year’s event.
To learn more about the services offered and future events from Coastal Workforce Services, go to www.coastalworkforceservices.org.