08/09/09 — Summer work program gave students taste of adult world

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Summer work program gave students taste of adult world

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 9, 2009 2:00 AM

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Thomas Barksdale, right, signs copies of his books for students at a graduation ceremony held Friday evening for students who successfully held a job over the summer with the help of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Sixteen-year-old Billy Hamm was frank about his former employment prospects, and what he believes a summer work program did for him.

"I never really thought that I would have a job," Hamm said to a sizable audience who had gathered to honor the 2009 Summer Youth Employment Program.

The ceremony was held Friday night at Rebuilding Broken Places, off North William Street.

The program targeted youth with "barriers" to employment, things like a lack of basic skills, teen pregnancy or parenting, being part of the foster care system, or having run away from home, Goldsboro High School English teacher Dr. Wilbur Brower said.

About 42 students were placed in jobs throughout Wayne County, at schools, government offices and other non-profit organizations, including Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corp.

Dr. Brower said he wrote most of the grant, although Goldsboro High School Principal Patricia Burden noted that members of the school system's central office also participated.

Grant funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvest-ment Act, referred to in common parlance as "stimulus money."

Hamm said issues in his life had prevented him from realizing things like the steady employment. The program helped him move past those issues, he said.

"I overcame a couple of obstacles, and I'd like to thank everyone, because this job kept me out of trouble, and kept me out off the street," Hamm said.

Dr. Willette Stanley, director of federal programs for the Wayne County Schools, said she herself was a product of a similar program.

She told the story of her own youth summer employment program in 1975, when the minimum wage was $2.10 per hour.

"It was a very exciting time for me -- I served as an office assistant at my high school, answered the phone, washed the windows, filed papers," Dr. Stanley said. "I learned many valuable lessons, and those lessons served me well in life."

Brittany Morgan, 20, now a junior at Shaw University, said having a summer job helped her cope with problems.

"Y'all helped me to get through the worst time of my life," Miss Morgan said, pausing to consider the statement. "But hey, I'm here. And I just love y'all so much."