Fourteen Bienville Parish 4-H’ers learned about the world of work in professional jobs this summer in a new program that’s a joint venture between the LSU AgCenter and the Bienville Parish Police Jury.
Called Jurors Empowering Teens, or JET, the six-week program was an experiment to see if investing in young people would pay off. And because both partners agreed it did, they will expand the program to include more teens next summer, according to Diane Uzzle, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent, who was in charge.
"The program wouldn’t have happened without the support of the police jury," Uzzle said. "They budgeted $26,500 for JET to pay each participant minimum wage."
One JET member, Darrell Johnson, said he was glad to be in the program because he was "not sitting at the house wasting time." He worked in the clerk of court’s office.
Some teens worked at the library. Anna Lathan, branch manager, said their duties included helping at the circulation desk, checking books in and out, shelving and cleaning DVDs.
"They were an asset to us. It freed me to work on reports. We’ve enjoyed them; it ives them good job experience. They know how to deal with the public," Lathan said.
Another JET member, Jeffrey McNear, who is headed to Northwestern State University to study electrical engineering in the fall, worked at the extension office "cleaning out files that are older than me," he said.
"I did skills assessment of the group and tried to pair the young person with an employer who would help in their career choice," Uzzle said.
One teen who wants to be a teacher went to work at the school board office. And another member of the group who wants to be a nurse went to work at the local clinic.
"The administrators told me this was exactly the kind of employees they’re looking for," Uzzle said.
4-H membership was a requirement for selection into JET. The program not only provided employment experience, but also focused on the development of financial management skills and workforce ethics. During two weeks of the program, Uzzle had the young people in class learning about workforce preparation and character education. The two field trips were to LSU-Shreveport and the Louisiana Technical College in Shreveport.
"Bienville Parish police jurors were forward thinking enough to realize the impact this program could have on the youth of the parish," said Allen Nipper, LSU AgCenter North Central regional director.
"The Bienville Parish Police Jury is to be commended for its proactive response to work force development, support of the local youth and for pioneering a program that can have potential around the state," Nipper said.
Mary Ann Van Osdell
(This article was published in the summer 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)