Columbus students pose with Mayor Robert Smith at a ceremony recognizing the MDOT Urban Youth Corps Program Thursday afternoon at Lion Hills. The program is designed to give students work experience and various life skills. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 1, 2014 10:28:25 AM
City officials and employees crammed into a banquet room at Lion Hills on Thursday to celebrate 19 local high school students who took part in this year's MDOT Urban Youth Corps Program.
The program was comprised of students from all high schools in the area, public and private. The students were employed by the city of Columbus this summer, working five hours a day, four days a week.
They helped with clean up and landscaping. In addition to the work, the students were addressed regularly by speakers who gave encouragement and advice.
The final week of the program was dedicated to life skills. Program coordinator George Irby said the students were encouraged to communicate well with one another and to realize the power of speaking up against bullying.
"You can stand up, speak up and lift somebody else up," Irby said.
Mayor Robert Smith addressed the audience Thursday and expressed his and the city's continued dedication to the Summer Youth Program.
"I just want to thank the council for allowing this program to continue," Smith said.
The program is co-sponsored by the City of Columbus and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. This year, MDOT put up $35,000 for the program. The city council voted to contribute $15,000 to ensure the program survived. Smith said the program has been going for 15 years.
The mayor thanked the parents and guardians for supporting their participants and celebrated the opportunity the jobs present to young people.
"You don't make the best money, but it's a good experience," Smith said. "Wherever you're going from here, I hope you've learned good skills."
Participants were paid minimum wage.
Two of the 19 students were recognized as the most dedicated workers. Kenny White Jr., who graduated from West Lowndes High School and will be attending Coahoma Community College this fall, was recognized for his strong work ethic and enthusiasm for helping others.
Rosalind Ellis, 16, was also recognized. She will be attending Mississippi School of Math and Science this year and said the program has broadened her horizon. They were given bonus gift cards in addition to their paychecks.
"We learned how to be responsible, time management and how to get along with others because we are all different," Ellis said.
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