When Jayla Coates was first placed at Robert E. Fuller's law firm for the Goldsboro Summer Youth Employment program, she was elated.
As a sophomore from Eastern Wayne High School with dreams of becoming an attorney, Coates could not have been more excited to start working with Fuller. But a few obstacles stood in her way.
"I'm really shy. I still am, but I'm not as shy as I was when I got here," Coates said. "When I first got here, I was so scared to answer the phone, even though it was just answering the phone and it seems so simple."
Coates quickly had to learn how to break out of her shell and talk with customers. A task that seemed daunting at first was made easier with the help of her new "second family," whom she was able to meet through the employment program.
"You kind of have to step out of your shell for a little bit and you can't be afraid to make mistakes. That's one of the things they taught me -- it's OK to make mistakes," Coates said. "They made them when they first started working, you just gotta laugh about it.
"It has been great -- they're like a second family. Bob is the grandad -- I call him papa -- Miss Beverly is the mom and Miss Darnell is the aunt. They treat me like the child."
Now, Coates has learned how to answer phone calls, take messages from customers and file any necessary paperwork. She has also had a chance to learn more about different jobs in the legal field, such as being a paralegal, and has had learned plenty of life lessons.
"They teach me to stay true to yourself and that nobody can make you do anything, and at the end of the day, you have to focus on yourself and what you believe is what's right," Coates said.
"I like when we're talking, because when we're talking it feels so family-ish. It feels like a family and I just like it -- they're so comfortable with each other and they make me feel comfortable."
Michael Jones, a junior at Eastern Wayne High School, has also enjoyed his time in the summer employment program.
Jones, who is deaf, works at Blended Fellowship in Pikeville with other children who are deaf and their hearing siblings. Through his work, Jones has acted as a role model for the children while they learn American Sign Language.
"I feel like it's changed my life to work here," Jones said. "I encourage myself to keep on at it -- it's taught me persistence. It makes me more positive about myself and that it encourages me to do good things. I'm happier about myself.
"When I help people here, and I help the teachers too, that has made me think that if I study psychology, become a psychologist, I could change the lives of people and help them understand sign language."
The Summer Youth Employment program is a pilot program that the city of Goldsboro implemented through the city council in 2017. It is funded through the city of Goldsboro's general funds and the Goldsboro Housing Authority.
According to Goldsboro Community Relations Director Shycole Simpson-Carter, 57 high school students from Goldsboro were selected from 114 applicants and placed in one of the two six-week programs.
The students are then able to earn hands-on experience working at various job locations, as well as job training, workforce development skills, career development skills and financial literacy skills, which are provided through Wayne Community College. Excursions to Raleigh and Beaufort are also included in each program.
"The youth that we're serving, they're going to be our workforce one day," Simpson-Carter said. "This is an investment for the city of Goldsboro. We want to invest in these youth so they can be as successful as they can be and come back to Goldsboro, hopefully, and pour into Goldsboro and pay it forward.
"The city has found that providing some sort of service to the youth is how we're going to provide good quality of life here in Goldsboro in the future and how we're going to build our economic base."
After completing an application and attending one information session and interview, the students are placed at various job locations in Wayne County, including jobs with the city of Goldsboro, Parks and Recreation, attorneys' offices, the city manager's office, Seymour Jonson Air Force Base, dental offices and many more.
The program selects a student's job location based off eight questions the students answer during their interviews about what career paths they are interested in.
"This year, which I'm really excited about, the county allowed kids to be placed with them. We have kids placed at Wayne County Services on Aging, and that was really big to get the county involved and let us place kids," Simpson-Carter said.
"It's just meaningful for them to be able to touch their dream now and see that this is something they can accomplish and be one day."
While the program does not have an income-based requirement, Simpson-Carter said that 89 percent of those who were eligible for an interview were low to moderate income.
"That is a tremendous accomplishment for a program that's not income based, but you're serving low to moderate income people," Simpson-Carter said. "This helps towards that issue of poverty amongst our youth."
When the application for the program was first released, there was an income-based requirement that was soon dropped. Simpson-Carter believes that there were not as many people who applied to the program or attended the information sessions because of that requirement.
Simpson-Carter said there were close to 400 people who attended the mandatory information work session in 2017, while only 130 attended this year, despite there being more opportunities to attend.