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Friday, July 31, 2009

Youth summer job program at UNCP creates opportunities

In a tight job market, summer jobs for teens are scarce.

An eight-week Summer Youth Employment Program at UNC Pembroke is helping to fill the gap by providing employment for 140 local youth. The University received a grant through the Lumber River Council of Governments for $411,796 funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Business start-up competition – From left Jacatherine McLaughlin of Red Springs, Christopher Graham of Rowland and Jakell Thompson of St. Pauls

Business start-up competition – From left Jacatherine McLaughlin of Red Springs, Christopher Graham of Rowland and Jakell Thompson of St. Pauls

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“We had more than 1,100 applications,” said Sylvia Pate, director of the Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Develop- ment. “It is our under- standing that we are the only UNC university hosting a program like this and actually, we also administer a year round youth program.”

The teens, ages 14 – 18, spent the week of June 22 – 26, in career development courses at the Regional Center. They could choose from programs in health, science, biotechnology, entrepreneurship and information technology.

Barbara Bullard of Rowland peers through the microscope in a biotechnology session

Barbara Bullard of Rowland peers through the microscope in a biotechnology session

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Then, they fanned out to employers for paid internships across the county.

“We had excellent participation from employers who signed up online,” Pate said. “UNCP will serve as a worksite for 20 workers across campus.”

Most of the internships are with local governments, schools and non-profits including the Agricultural Extension Service, county parks and recreation and the Center for Community Action in Lumberton. Some will work outdoors but many have “white collar” jobs in offices.

On Friday, the students were studying genetics in UNCP’s Biotechnology Center, visiting the Lumberton Water plant, learning about health lifestyles, building Web sites and starting new businesses.

“The old Converse plant is closed,” said Jacatherine McLaughlin of Red Springs. “Our plan is to re-open it with a new twist in fashion for a new generation.”

“We won the prize yesterday for the best new business idea,” said Christopher Graham of Rowland.

The students were eager to explain their ideas and to see their first paychecks.

Quanisha Galbreath of Maxton learns the basics of genetics.

Quanisha Galbreath of Maxton learns the basics of genetics.

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“This is my first paycheck ever,” said TJ, a.k.a. Thomas Jones of Lumberton. “I’m saving up for a car, with 32s on it.”

As part of the federal “stimulus” plan, many others had plans to inject their paychecks into the local economy but many were also going to plan on how best to spend their paychecks.

“I will spend it on school clothes and help my little sister too,” McLaughlin said.

Dr. Charles Harrington, UNCP’s provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs said the University was in the right place at the right time to offer this program.

“The funding for this particular program from the Lumber River Council of Governments could not have come at a more opportune time for these students,” Dr. Harrington said. “With the downturn in the economy, the Summer Youth Employment Program not only provides students with modest summer employment experiences and income, it provides them with an opportunity to see first-hand, the impact that the state and national economies are having on Southeastern North Carolina. 

“This program will also benefit a number of regional employers who have also felt the harsh sting of workforce reductions,” he said. 

For information about the Summer Youth Employment Program or other programs at the Regional Center, please contact them at 910.775.4000 or email rc@uncp.edu.

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