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Youth program finds work for area teens, young adults

Need extra work hands this summer? Then look to the Summer Youth Program to fill that need while also helping to teach area youths between the ages of 16 and 24 marketable job skills.

They’re not there to replace one of your employees, or to do the job one of your employees might do, said Pearl River Valley Opportunity director Darryl McInnis. They want to assist. For example, at the junior college, if the buses need washing, they can wash them.

McInnis was at the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday to ask the county to get on board with finding job opportunities within the daily activities of county business for the teens and young adults who participate in the program.

Aimed at youths between the ages of 16 and 24, the Summer Youth Program places 80 area youths and young adults in various job situations to help them learn new employment and life skills they can take to a permanent job. Restricted to a maximum of 32 hours a week, the participants work at a number of jobs such as childcare, lawn maintenance and clerical work. Their pay is paid for through PRVO, funded with a federal grant aimed at upping the employability of low to moderate income people.

McInnis said that the participants are pre-screened prior to placement and that the organization had enough funding for 80 participants, with 40 openings slotted from the Picayune area and 40 from Poplarville and the surrounding areas. Their work period begins June 8 and ends July 31.

McInnis said that some participants can work only 16 hours a week, with the remaining time devoted to GED training and testing. If they are not a high school graduate, they can only work 16 hours a week and their other time is spent readying for their GED, McInnis said.

He said that they like to place the participants in areas in which they may have interest, such as childcare. “We are trying to put them in certain positions, like at a this childcare provider who is participating and she is going to teach them how to do childcare and all,” McInnis said, adding that the organization stresses to the participants that they’re building a resume.

District 3 supervisor Hudson Holliday said that he believed the county could help by participating and he hoped the county would place the youths and young adults in work environments that would give them more life building skills than would janitorial work or picking up debris. “We should be training them to do something that can benefit them,” said Holliday.

District 2 supervisor Patrick Lee, agreed, adding that it was easy for employers to fall into the routine of putting the youths to work at menial jobs, but that the goal of placing them somewhere they could actually learn a real skill should be the county’s goal.

McInnis told the supervisors that he had several places in Picayune ready to take on some of the youths, but that placement had been more difficult for the Poplarville area, adding that PRVO tried to make the work location convenient for the participants. “We are hoping this year we can use it as a platform,” said McInnis, saying that the community college had just agreed to participate last Friday. “Maybe we can use this year as a recruiting platform for the businesses so that next year they are knocking on our door.”

County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin advised supervisors that he was aware of the program and that he recommended the county take advantage of the opportunity. “I recommend we notify the department heads and use the program as necessary,” said Lumpkin.

Board president and District 1 supervisor Anthony Hales agreed with Lumpkin, saying that personally he had been involved in the program as a teen. He also wanted the help from teens and young adults not be abused. In the past, people used the program for labor they didn’t have to pay for and took advantage of the kids, Hales said. “We don’t want to see any kids misused or exploited.”

The board unanimously agreed to notify department heads of the opportunity and try to place some of the youths.

In other business, the board:

— Approved travel for T. Amacker to Refresher Training at Camp Shelby on July 1 2 and Sept. 11.

— Approved travel for B. Raby, Jr. to updating of skills at Camp Shelby on July 12 and Sept. 11.

— Approved travel for the Election Commissioners to ECAM workshop in Hattiesburg on June 23.

— Approved payment for lodging for a crime victim to return to the area to testify before the grand jury. The county will seek reimbursement from the Crime Victims Fund, and if turned down, will seek it in the form of restitution through the judge if the perpetrator is found guilty.

The next board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, June 8, in the county courthouse building on Julia Street.