LEAD Initiative gives teens work experience

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Sixteen Person County teenagers recently spent three weeks receiving mentoring and work experience at a variety of local businesses through North Carolina’s first Leading, Empowering, Advising and Developing (LEAD) Initiative.

The LEAD Initiative is administered by the North Carolina Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement Human Trafficking Program. The program provides participants with enriching and constructive work, leadership experiences, coaching, and advice on an industry of their choice from local leaders.

The project was funded through a Governor’s Crime Commission grant CFWYI’s Human Trafficking program awarded to increase resources and support to youth in five rural communities.

Person County’s program was to work experience. In Anson County, the LEAD Initiative is working to put mental health services in schools. In Bertie County, the LEAD Initiative is working on project-based programs in areas such as bullying, drugs and alcohol, gangs and highway safety. Programs in Halifax and Harnett Counties are funded but nothing has been fully planned.

Kiricka Yarbough Smith, Human Trafficking Program Director with the CFWYI, said the program was made possible with the support of the community.

“Though LEAD is a short-term leadership, skills-building, and career exploration program, our goal is to introduce our youth to community leaders who will positively impact their futures,” Smith said. “Community leaders and local businesses made this program possible by volunteering to serve as field instructors and providing structured learning opportunities for youth during the summer.”

Smith said she met with community leaders in the last week of June and developed the mentorship program. She said ideally, they would have started planning earlier but they still managed to place all 16 students with leaders.

The businesses involved were Canterbury House, Golden Corral, GP Yancey Enterprises, HRM Property Management, Piedmont Community College, Person County Department of Social Services, Person Family Medical Center, Roxboro Housing Authority, Safe Haven and Victorious Learning Center.

Smith said the program received support services from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Person County Parks and Recreation, the Person County Sheriff’s Office, Roots and Wings, the Roxboro Police Department, the Roxboro Fire Department, Students Against Destructive Decisions and Mayor Merilyn Newell.

The initiative held a reception for the teens who completed the program Friday at the Mayo Park Environmental Education and Community Center.

Participants said they received a lot of valuable experience in their job settings from job skills like handling paperwork and customer service to life skills like patience, having a positive attitude, communication and learning about how to be a leader.

Smith said the 2019-2020 class will continue to participate in leadership workshops, career readiness, community and civic engagement activities, and the SADD conference in Concord during the 2019-2020 school year.

Next year’s class is expected to be brought in during the summer of 2020. To participate, students had to be between the ages of 14-17 or rising 9th- through 12th-graders and residents of Person County.

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