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Stimulus money revives program, employs youth

NATCHEZ — For 10 years, the Summer Youth Work Experience Program lay dormant.

But in a true meaning of its name, stimulus money brought it back to life this year by leaps and bounds.

The youth program is an arm of the Win Job Center, and this summer, using stimulus money, 166 youth have been employed in Adams, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties.

Per the program standards, the employed youth must work for municipalities, not private companies, said Win Job Center Unit Supervisor Diane Brooks.

That’s why the county courthouse, road crew, City Hall and public works have been flooded with 67 gainfully employed youth this summer.

“It’s really been a tremendous help for the community and we’ve had a tremendous response,” Brooks said.

And while the various entities are enjoying the extra helping hands, she said the overall benefit belongs to the youth.

Another requirement of the program is that each youth employed must be economically disadvantaged, Brooks said.

“It’s basically so they can learn work-readiness skills so they can develop into productive law-abiding, tax-paying citizens,” Brooks said.

Not only are the youth garnering hands-on experience in the eight-week program, but the Win Job Center guides them in a course of work ethic.

“We give them in-depth orientations,” she said, which include such skills as work ethic, readiness and promptness — and the value of a hard-earned dollar.

Each youth earns $7.25 an hour and is required to work 32 hours a week. Workers are paid through the Win Job Center.

Jefferson County has 59 youth employed and Wilkinson County has 40.

Brooks said the program is valuable, and it was merely a lack of funds that kept it from running for the past decade.

She said she hopes that by having the program this summer, the need for it will be recognized and that the program can take place every year.

“My fingers are crossed that that’s true, because there’s such a big need,” Brooks said. “There are so many people who really need the opportunity to work.

“We know there aren’t very many jobs in particular — no summer jobs — and we’re hopeful that in the future we’ll be able to serve more people.”

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