Our View: Summer work program worthy of public support




Mississippians have long understood the importance of a strong work ethic and believe that, like all skills, it is something that can and should be taught at an early age. 


For more than 20 years, the city of Columbus has provided such opportunities for students, many of them from low-income families, to learn these life and work skills through its summer jobs program.  


Summer jobs in the private sector are competitive and over the years, this program -- which until last year had been funded through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation -- has enabled about 25 high school and college-age students to work for the city, mostly in its public works department under the supervision of city director of planning and community development George Irby. 


But last year, MDOT, citing budget cuts, declined to provide the $35,000 in funding the program needed just weeks before the application process was set to begin. An appeal to the public to provide those funds succeeded, thanks to the generosity of single donor, who provided the funds anonymously. 


Again this year -- and likely for the foreseeable future -- MDOT will not fund the summer jobs program. So, again, it is now up to the citizens to determine whether the program will continue this year and in the future. 


As noted, last year's program was spared by a single donor. That was considered a one-time offer, so any effort to keep the program will require numerous contributions. Ideally, a large group of citizens and business owners will make the summer jobs program a part of their annual efforts to give back to the community. 


The more who contribute, the lighter the burden for all. 


Throughout the program's history, students have not only been given the chance to turn idle time into productive work and earn some much-needed money, but have been taught the basic skills they'll need to learn about the working world. Indeed, while the job may last only as long as the summer break, the lessons they learn will follow them into their adult working lives. 


Irby said $20,000 would provide a scaled-back version of the program. Ideally, the program would be fully funded at $35,000, which would provide jobs for 25 students. 


We believe that the program's success over the years is worthy of the public support. To make a financial commitment, contact Irby at 662-364-1898.



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