CATEGORY: Lee County

AUTHOR: MOULDE

Youth jobs program to resume

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Area officials say restoration of federal funding will permit them to resume a summer jobs program for young people.

The "work experience component" of the youth jobs program was halted when Congress cut funding two years ago. The program had provided students summer jobs with nonprofit and governmental organizations.

The funding will mean about $400,000 for use in the eight counties covered by the Three Rivers Planning and Development District, which oversees the program, said Marilou Oyler, Jobs Training Partnership Act division director for Three Rivers. That should fund an average of 20 to 25 jobs per county.

"That's got everybody excited," Oyler said. "We're busily determining now how we're going to spread it (the funds) among our counties."

The program was designed to find summer work for students from lower-income families who are otherwise unable to land summer jobs.

One of those excited by the summer job prospects was Zell Long, development officer for the City of Tupelo.

"I feel sure the Community Development Department will definitely go back to the painting program," Long said of a city summer project to upgrade housing while teaching young people painting and minor carpentry techniques. The program had been funded by LIFT Inc. through a grant from the Three Rivers jobs program.

The city generally asked for seven to 10 summer workers to paint and do minor repairs to homes whose owners, primarily the elderly, were incapable of doing the work and couldn't afford to have it done. In past years, the summer crews refurbished 13 to 17 houses during an eight-week program.

"If they (the program) can supply the workers, I know the city will do the program," Long said.

Whether the city's program would be selected this year isn't certain. Oyler said Three Rivers is only beginning to seek proposals from various entities, which will then be evaluated to determine which get a share of the new money.

Other jobs that were funded previously through the program included supplying aides to county officials or helpers for nonprofit community agencies.

While the summer jobs program was dormant the past two years, the agency continued its academic enrichment program. That effort provided remedial education or enhanced programs, such as computer training, for low-income youths.

The key to both programs is that they help students to develop job skills.

"One thing being stressed very much this year by the Department of Labor is that education and work complement each other," Oyler said. "The youths in the work experience component have got to show they are learning something in what they do."

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