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Program teaches business sense

VIDALIA — Parish businesses interested in helping area students while promoting their business are in luck.

A meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 15 at the Concordia Parish School Board office will provide details for anyone interested in participating in the annual CHOICES program in Concordia Parish.

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Executive Director Heather Malone said the program is a great help to eighth-grade students.

“We get area businesses to go into eighth-grade classrooms to talk to the students about how their choices affect the rest of their lives,” she said. “We talk a lot about continuing their education beyond high school into college or a vocational or skill school.”

Malone said the program focuses on letting the students know that the more education they receive, the more opportunities are available to them.

“We use several learning modules,” she said. “There are lots of hands-on activities so the kids don’t get bored.”

Malone said one of the modules about money management really helps opens the students eyes.

“We go through the scenario where the child drops out of school, and we give them a job at a local business that would hire them with their qualifications,” she said. “We tell them this is the amount of money they will get each week. We then take out taxes, rent, utilities and other things from their pay.”

Malone said the students are always amazed at how little money they have left.

“They think that when they get a job they can get what they want,” she said. “That is not the situation at all.”

The time of your life module is another one Malone said really gets the students’ attention.

Malone said the students are given a timeline that goes from zero to 100.

“We point out on the timeline where they are now and the year they will graduate,” she said. “It is such a small period on the timeline.”

Malone said the timeline also shows the normal age of retirement at 65 for people who stay in school and get their education.

“Many people who do not stay in school don’t have the luxury of being able to retire that early,” she said. “It just shows the kids that the decisions they make now are really going to affect the rest of their lives.”

Malone said anyone interested in helping out with the program only has to spend one hour each day at the school for two consecutive days to help the program.

“The schedule goes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said. “You can pick whatever time is best for you.”

In it’s third year of existence in Concordia Parish, Malone said the CHOICES program has been a big success.

“All of the principals have told me how pleased they are with the work through the program,” she said.

Malone said businesses also have the added benefit of getting their name out when they help with the program.

“These are eighth-grade kids who are consumers,” she said. “It is a good opportunity to let them know what your business is, because they tell their parents what they want and where to get it.”

Malone said business representatives that participate with CHOICES are encouraged to wear their work uniforms when working with the students because it lets them know there are opportunities for work in the area.

“The perception that many kids have here is that there is nowhere here to work,” she said. “This gives us a chance to show them there are opportunities for them here if they decide to go to college and come back.”

Malone said the event is not limited to Concordia Parish businesses.

“This is open to the entire Miss-Lou,” she said.

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