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4-H program prepares youth for work force
By Marcus Daniels
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, Claiborne County students are learning skills to secure future employment.
For eight years, Claiborne County Extension Director Doyle Banks has worked with Port Gibson High School and the Vocational Technical Complex under the Children, Youth and Families At-Risk grant to help prepare students for the work force.
“I've seen more than 800 students successfully complete the program and go on to be productive members of the work force,” Banks said.
Students in the program learn job application skills, including how to have a good interview, complete an application properly and develop a personal resume. An important focus of this program is developing a better attitude and self-esteem among the students.
“Students from this poverty-stricken area have little hope for a better future, with education being low on the list of priorities, as evidence by the high dropout rate, low attendance and poor grades,” Banks said.
All 9th grade participants begin the project with a life skills development program called CHOICES.
“CHOICES is a program that teaches students making the transition from middle school to high school how to make decisions, manage time, manage their finances and set personal goals,” Banks said. “We have what we call a decision tree, a model to show students that good decisions afford them more choices in life while bad decisions don't.”
CHOICES post-program surveys have indicated improvement in students' abilities to make good choices about health, safety and future careers. Surveys also showed an improvement in student self-esteem.
After the CHOICES program, students have an opportunity to move on and be a part of the work-force development program at the vocational center where they work on computer skills and use the computer to develop keyboarding and academic skills, such as math and reading.
“Vocational teachers teach students the skills they need for a job; I teach the students how to land a job,” Banks said.
Lee Howard, vocational technology instructor at Port Gibson High School, said students learn to work on ExplorNet, a computer-engineering program.
“Many of these students learn skills that enable them to build a computer from scratch,” Howard said. “Knowing this gives them the ability to start their own computer repair business, to become a certified computer technician or to simply keep their own computer running properly.”
Howard said the program gives students a sense of pride about themselves knowing that they have accomplished something. During 2001, his students built 600 computers.
Banks takes the computer skills that students are taught and helps incorporate them into their resumes. He also helps prepare them for job searches by conducting mock job interviews.
Students are videotaped before and after interview training, which gives them the opportunity to critique their performance and identify ways to improve. Students are given the most common interview questions so they can practice and build confidence.
“Several of the students don't know much when they start the program, and some are shy and nervous. I've seen tremendous progress in students. They seem to realize the importance of the experience,” Howard said.
Contact: Doyle Banks, (601) 437-5011