POC successfully operates 3 youth employment programs

BY SKYLA LUCKEY, Staff Writer

PINELLAS COUNTY – Pinellas Opportunity Council, (POC) Inc. Youth Development Program completed another summer serving the Pinellas County community with 71 students participating in its pre-employment and job skills development program. For 32 years, POC has provided youth an opportunity to engage in summer employment. Three groups of students were celebrated for their participation in this year’s program.

For six weeks, students ages 14-17 were energized through training provided by POC and STEM TEC staff. They spent the time gaining hands on practical part-time work experience.

Fri., June 26

Eleven students from the Pinellas County System’s Homeless Education Assistance Team (HEAT) Program were recognized for their participation in the pre-employment/life skills development-training component provided by POC staff.

The training included, “True Colors” presented by Priscilla McFadden and Dawn Sarmienta from Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB). Sergeant Dwight Barber and Specialist Melvin Duperon from the National Guard provided information on military opportunities.

Students also participated in field trips to the St. Petersburg College (Downtown campus) and the Holocaust Museum, which included a tour and lecture on “Hope” by a Holocaust survivor. Etiquette training was presented by Wyvonnia McGee, retired home economics teacher.

Each student received a certificate and an incentive gift of $100.

Mon., July 27

POC recognized 35 students at JWB in Clearwater at a ceremony that included a lunch for parents, students, supervisors and community partners.

Assistant Principal Keila Bowers-Victor from Madeira Beach Fundamental School, Tiffany Long, fiscal records specialist from Juvenile Justice Center and Beryl Colbert, owner of Live The Rhythm Company delivered motivational and inspirational speeches to the students.

Students received certificates and an incentive check of $550.

Friday, Aug. 15

The POC 2015 Taskforce 2020 Youth Program campaign initiative held its culmination ceremony at the Pinellas County Job Corps Center in St. Petersburg. Twenty-five students were recognized for their participation in this initiative. These students also received pre-employment skills training and spent six weeks gaining hands-on part-time work experience.

Guest speakers included Deborah Figgs-Sanders, executive director, Child Park YMCA and campaign chairperson, Carl Lavendar, senior consultant, Mt. Zion Human Services, Senita Robinson, former participant and ESE associate, Pinellas County School System and POC Executive Director, Carolyn King. The event was attended by parents, supervisors and community partners.

“Think about where you want to go in life,” said guest speaker Pastor Robinson. “Think about failure is not an option. You guys still have potential, and think about where you want to go in the next couple of years.”

Robinson shared that during her youth she was a struggling student, and didn’t know if she would graduate high school. But with the knowledge and confidence that POC empowered in her, she graduated high school and graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree. She encouraged the youth to realize that even though they aren’t where they want to be yet in life, that getting there is a work in progress. And with determination and hard work their goals can be met.

Alex Street, 16, is proud to have completed his second summer of training with Junior Achievement. “I enjoyed everything,” said Street. “It was a fantastic opportunity. I really appreciated Mrs. Annette Long because she helped me get into the program, and really explained how the program worked.”

Street was motivated to participate in POC because he learned that he could gain computer skills. Through STEM TEC, he has earned PowerPoint and Microsoft Office certifications. This summer, through Junior Achievement, he taught children in daycares and churches about the city government structure of St. Petersburg, and how city employees contribute to making the community a better place.

“I don’t like to hear that other people are doing bad things and going down the wrong path,” said Street. “I work well with anybody who allows someone to help them out. I’m just an outgoing person, and have always been a helpful person. I like helping kids because when I was a little kid, people helped me out, and helping other people will bring blessings to you in return.”

The program is a big confidence booster when it comes to self-development and job applications. Many POC alumni have found outside jobs with the help of POC. It helped Street find employment with the Police Athletic League for his upcoming junior year at Gibbs High School. He’ll be working with children after school in PAL’s after school programs.

“I see many kids every year who say, ‘Mrs. Williams, we got a job,’” said Carol Williams, an eight-year volunteer. “Many students continue employment after this program. Many of them are working for the City of St. Pete many years after they complete the program.”

It’s encouraged for anyone who is interested in applying to the summer POC Youth

Development Program, to apply early because the slots fill up quickly. Many of the business partners require the students to have anywhere between a 2.5-3.0 GPA.

“Even though income is the criteria,” explained Williams, “we try to place every applicant into a program or refer them to one, even if the income is too high.”

Graduates received a certificate and a check at the end of the ceremony.

Employers providing job placements and supervision included: City of St. Petersburg Recreation Department, Daystar Life Center, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Neighborhood Family Center Clearwater, St. Petersburg College (Midtown) campus, The Boys and Girls Club, Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League, Lealman, Manor Care Health Services, Palm Harbor, Advantage Village Academy, Bay Area Legal Services, Duford Tools, Citizens Alliance for Progress Inc., Baby Cycle Diaper Bank, Aldersgate Christian Learning Preschool, Gibbs High School, Faith Memorial Church, Southside Tabernacle Church, Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, Surface Engineering, St. Petersburg Pregnancy Center, Enoch Davis Center and the St. Petersburg Sunshine Center.

For more information about the POC Youth Development Program, visit poc-inc.org.

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