Approximately 400 young people from 12 area counties converged at Thomson High School Saturday for a day-long conference and work orientation for their summer jobs. Sponsored by One Stop and the McDuffie County School System, the program was for teens who have attained a summer job in their local school system, county and city public offices, housing authority and participating private employers. The jobs were created by a stimulus-funded grant through the East Central Georgia Workforce Investment (One Stop).
"I think it's a good idea for youth who are going to graduate and who are going to get jobs," said Eddy Herrera, who is a freshman at Washington-Wilkes High School.
Just after noon on Saturday, Eddy said he had already learned many things in the sessions, especially from motivational speaker Ralph Simpson, who is an author and the assistant superintendent of the DeKalb County School System.
"I learned you never have to quit, no matter what. And you cannot live off of minimum wage. You have to go to college," Eddy said, adding that he had been considering college.
Dr. Simpson spoke to the young audience about his personal experience as an African-American male who hated school in the Atlanta area school system. He said his book, Remedial to Remarkable, is "a classic blueprint and an example of someone who procrastinated, someone who was complacent, but someone that at some point in time realized that in order for me to be able to do what I want to do, I have to do what I need to do."
"I learned to believe in myself and to keep pushing myself," Brensha Dinson, a senior at Washington-Wilkes High School, said after hearing Dr. Simpson.
The students then broke into a rotation schedule of 45-minute sessions entitled "Carpenters," "Doctors," "CEOs," "Lawyers," or "Entertainers," that were taught by officials with the Georgia Department of Labor, Augusta Technical College, East Central Georgia One Stop, CSRA Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Program and TOPPSTEP. The sessions taught jobs and educational opportunities that are available, work ethics, finances and how to establish credit.
After a lunch, the students returned to the high school auditorium to hear the second motivational keynote speaker of the day - Eddie Lee Ivery. Mr. Ivery is a Thomson High School and Georgia Tech alumnus and former record-setting running back for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, who went on to be a first-round draft choice and eight-year running back for the Green Bay Packers. He currently is the parent involvement coordinator and an assistant coach for the McDuffie County School System.
"I'm not going to talk to you about my bio, because you can read it on the wall beside my retired jersey," Mr. Ivery said. "But it does qualify me to talk to you about success. I'm going to talk to you about winning in life, not just athletics."
Mr. Ivery told the students that success was "the result of knowing where you want to go or who you want to be and the changes you need to make to get there." He said these changes include the way they think and the way they dress, following a higher power, accepting responsibility, choosing to be educated, persevering through storms, having the courage to step outside their comfort zone, remaining teachable and being enthusiastic.
"I really like the way he used respect and broke it down," said Dominique Mitchell, a junior at Taliaferro County Consolidated School, referring to Mr. Ivery's acronym method of illustrating his point. "It made sense to me."
Approximately 60 young people will be employed in McDuffie County this summer through the program, and will work for the school system, the housing authority and Dudley Nurseries, according to Sheila Johnson, who is heading up the program for the McDuffie School System.