JOHNSTON, S.C. (WJBF) – Their mission is to empower youth and families in order to reach their full potential and on Monday, August 13 is graduation day for the Job Readiness Training for Teens program in Edgefield County.
“This program does a lot,” 10th grader Jaquaris Forrest told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk when asked about the Job Readiness Training for Teens program.
The program is a strategic partnership between Edgefield County Youth Empowerment Center (ECYEC) and the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, with an effort to increase the employability among at-risk high school students ages 14-18, improve school attendance and academic performance, decrease school dropout rates and increase the likelihood of high school completion and enrollment in secondary education, or the military.
“I don’t have to go anywhere with my friends and get in trouble,” Forrest added.
Forrest is one of the students participating in this year’s job readiness program. “It gives me something to do to keep my mind focused,” he said.
Marcella Edwards is at the helm of the project. She said her organization saw a need in the rural area. “We are the only non-profit organization in the area that has an array of services such as a JRT program, STEM program, an afterschool program, parenting program, a recreation program so it’s very important because in the rural areas there is a lack of community support for entities such as this for youth and their families.”
The skills learned translates to any field.
“Team building exercises, interviewing skills, application completion, researching, and job readiness skills, college prep-type skills,” Edwards said went asked what skills students like Forrest learned during his time participating in JRT.
As a part of the program, students are paid to play.
“They have to go thru a 20-hour intense training. They get paid $7.25 for training and once they complete that, they will get placed on an internship. For the summer, they do 80 hours for the fall and spring, it’s 40 hours because of school hours,” Edwards added. “They work HARD for the money,” Edwards said with a playful chuckle.
Edgefield County Youth Empowerment Center provides options to more than 160 youth and their families each year. About 98% of the students served come from single-parent or lower-income homes.
“I’ve learned a lot of things. I learned how to communicate with people on a daily basis. I learn how to not only get a job but to keep the job. In the program, you learn a lot and everything you learn, you can put it toward something important in your life,” Forrest said.
The program is all about helping teens like Jaquaris find purpose. “Once they find purpose, then they find a sense of worth and value,” Edwards added. “They’ll stray away from things that they know are not beneficial for purpose. So that is the key, purpose because nothing else works better for them until they find purpose in life.
Edgefield County Youth Empowerment Center offers eight programs for youth in the area.
- After-School: 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. (Monday-Friday)
- S.T.E.M. Summer Program: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Monday-Friday)
- Job Readiness Training Sessions: Fall, Spring, & Summer
- Girls Circle
- Parenting Classes
- L.E.A.D.: Male Mentorship.
The Job Readiness for Teens graduation ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Johnston Learning Center at 117 Cardinal Drive in Johnston. Senator Shane Massey is the scheduled Keynote Speaker.
If you would like more information about Job Readiness Training for Teens program or Edgefield County Youth Empowerment Center, you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Edgefield-County-Youth-Empowerment-Center-200332310075817/ or their homepage at http://ecyouthempowerment.org/