Leap Into Work Helping People Improve Lives

Dora Ann Hatch, Coolman, Denise, Merrill, Thomas A., Judd, Cathy S.  |  4/22/2005 11:26:39 PM

Shearita Thomas, foreground, learns how to use the local paper's classifieds to look for a job. Thomas is one of several participants in a pilot program conducted by the LSU AgCenter in Lincoln Parish to teach people skills they need to find better jobs. The program has been in existence for just a few weeks, but coordinators say officials from neighboring parishes already are asking about how they can bring similar efforts to their communities.

News Release Distributed 2/20/04

Shearita Thomas of Ruston wants to make a better life for herself and her children – and she believes an LSU AgCenter program designed to help participants find better jobs will help.

LSU AgCenter agents are working around the state to help Louisiana adults find their places in the state’s workforce. Thomas is participating in a pilot program of one such effort in Lincoln Parish known as "Leap Into Work."

"I want to be a positive role model for my children," Thomas said recently. "And one way to do this is to find a good job. This program will teach me how to find such a job."

Leap Into Work teaches interviewing techniques, workplace survival skills and searching for jobs via the Internet, local newspaper and other resources. It also stresses the importance of practicing the Six Pillars of Character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – in the workplace.

"Lincoln Parish residents identified a gap in job readiness training for people 17 to 32 years of age," said Cathy Judd, an LSU AgCenter Family and Consumer Sciences agent who is helping lead the pilot program. "We wanted to do something to help close this gap, and this is what we came up with."

The program has been in place just a few weeks, and residents and leaders and neighboring parishes already are asking how they can establish similar programs in their communities.

"This program works well if community organizations work together on it," said Dora Ann Hatch, an LSU AgCenter community economic development agent who also is helping spearhead the Lincoln Parish project. "For this pilot project, we had organizations throughout the community work to get the people who are participating."

Thomas is just one of the participants, and all say the program has been very helpful.

"I have learned how to look for and apply for jobs," Thomas said. "I have also learned how to present myself when I go in for an interview. I didn’t know these things before I took this class."

State Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, praised the program, saying it teaches people skills that will be valuable when they venture out into the workplace.

"The participants learn things that are important, such as interviewing skills," Downs said. "If they will use what they learn in this program, they will grow in the workplace."

The LSU AgCenter is working with Louisiana Tech University, Louisiana Technical College, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Ruston chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, Life Choices, Volunteers of America and the Lincoln Parish GIFT program.

Those eligible to participate in Leap Into Work include high school dropouts, GED recipients, adult basic education students, unemployed people between the ages of 17 and 32 and others in similar situations that might put them at a disadvantage when searching for a better job.

For more information on the pilot program, call the LSU AgCenter’s Lincoln Parish office at (318) 251-5134. For more general information on similar efforts, call your parish LSU AgCenter office and ask for the community economic development agent or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts: 
            Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-3110 or dhatch@agcenter.lsu.edu
            Cathy Judd at (318) 251-5134 or cjudd@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writers: 
            A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu
            Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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