East Carroll Parish 4-H agent Lekeisha Lucas-Powell is fighting for the future of young people in East Carroll Parish. East Carroll Parish has the highest unemployment rate in Louisiana and one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Lucas-Powell has spearheaded various opportunities to prepare youth for the future, creating career training and development classes that make a difference.
Born in East Carroll Parish, Lucas-Powell understands the struggle many of the young people experience. After finishing college at University of Louisiana Monroe, she returned and worked as a career counselor. Now she uses that skill set as a respected 4-H agent.
“I love my home. I love my community,” she said. “I wanted to be able to come back and help individuals in my parish. I saw a need, and I’m from here and just comfortable being here and wanted to help others.”
What motivated you to offer these programs?
According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, East Carroll Parish ranked No. 1 with the highest unemployment rate in Louisiana in 2018. According to the County Health Rankings website from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a staggering 11.3 percent of the population was unemployed, and 59 percent of children under the age of 18 were living in poverty. To minimize negative outcomes for youth, East Carroll 4-H brought together 4-H’ers, parents, community leaders, 4-H alumni and community partners to create a solution.
Have you collaborated with others?
The collaboration was established through East Carroll Parish 4-H, the East Carroll Parish Police Jury, the East Carroll Parish Library, the Entergy Charitable Foundation and Together for Hope.
I was able to pool together a lot of individuals from the community who were willing to collaborate with me and volunteer. I’m really grateful to have people in the community who believe in the mission of the AgCenter and have no problem pooling their resources to make a difference in the community. They love to see the work that is happening with people in the parish. It makes a difference to the students to see people within the community, people they respect, conducting these workshops and volunteering their time.
Which career preparation opportunities have you have offered in East Carroll Parish?
The career prep programs targeted youth in seventh through 12th grades to provide professional development training and career exploration. A series of workshop sessions were offered, which included: “How to Impress During an Interview,” “Self-Image,” “How to Tie a Necktie” and “How to Shine Shoes.” Additionally, East Carroll 4-H alumni prepared a session titled “College and Beyond With East Carroll 4-H Alums.” A diverse group of former 4-H’ers ranging from college freshmen to graduate students answered questions during a forum to offer advice and encouragement to equip youth with knowledge to be successful in high school, college and in their careers.
What outcomes have you seen from the career prep programs?
As a result of participation in this workshop, 97 percent of youth indicated that they learned a new skill and felt more knowledgeable about professional development and would recommend this workshop to others. I often notice that after the very first workshop, the students are more confident. They come to me and say, “Miss Powell, when it’s time for prom I’ll be able to tie my own necktie!” A lot of the career readiness information is new to the students, especially the session on how to impress in an interview. The students haven’t been exposed to interview preparation and situations, and that has caused a barrier for many participants.
This article appears in the Louisiana 4-H 2019 Annual Report.
4-H volunteer Karvan Powell, a criminal investigator with the Office of the District Attorney 6th Judicial District, unravels the mystery of tying a tie.