Arming local youth with work experience

Published 10:09 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

Niles Daily Star

It was, for lack of a better term, bad news.
State released reports showed that Michigan’s unemployment rose yet again for the month of June and the numbers – an estimated 740,000 people out of work in the state – lead to a lot of questions.

Questions like, how many more Michigan residents will face unemployment lines?
Will things ever get better?

What, if anything, can the state do to help its growing population of the unemployed?

And what about the grown population of the state’s youth – poised to enter a merciless workforce?

At Mount Calvary Baptist Church, community leaders teamed up with Michigan Works to answer that question by preparing the areas youth for an ever increasingly competitive job market.

“To provide them with basic workplace skills…” said Mary Cross, community director for Mount Calvary’s summer youth program.  “Job seeking, job coping, job keeping.”

Through Michigan Works’ Summer Jobs Experience Program, area youth from Cass, Van Buren and Berrien counties between the ages of 14 and 24 apply through Michigan

Works and are then placed around their area, getting around six weeks work experience.

The Mount Calvary program utilized volunteers in the area and Rev. Bryant Bacon said a group of 13 took part in the program through the church, which lasted eight weeks.

“We started with 13 and we ended with 13,” Cross said.
Devin Simpson and Chantuea Hudson were two of the 13 who received certificates of recognition Thursday during a special ceremony at the church.

“I learned that there’s no substitute for the hard work that you do,” Simpson said. “And the feeling you get when you accomplish that.”
Hudson said some of the lessons learned through the program included how to communicate with others when working with them. “You have to learn that everyone is not going to do everything the way you do it,” she said.

Participants worked for Mount Calvary Baptist Church and a couple of participating businesses within the area.

Hudson and Simpson said in addition to getting valuable work experience and gaining a better understanding of the working environment, the program had a few added benefits such as building friendships with other participants and building confidence within onesself.

“I think that’s the awesome thing about it,” Bacon said. “Really (it is) to teach the kids job responsibilities.”

The program can only help them be prepared for when they look for work in the future.

To instill the ideas of “persistence, prioritizing, having more patience and doing the job right,” Cross said, was also a goal of the program.

Volunteers were a big part of the Mount Calvary program. Bacon said all supervisors for those youth taking part in the job focused program were volunteers, 15 supervisors total. Cross was especially grateful to each, Dwayne Wolverton, Ruth Williams, Judy Scott, Donald Cross, Charles Scott, Shanda Holliman, Elroy Holliman, Rev. Tracy Roddy, Fredonia Jordan, Otis Cosey, Cheryl Slaughter, Christine Cosey, Dorothy Bailey, Dwight Greer, Lutretia Terry and Bacon for their time

And it’s a program that Bacon and Cross said they hope to make an annual offering through the church.

“We want to make this bigger and better,” next year, she said.