Interns make memories, gain experience with city work

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 7, 2000

As students load up their backpacks to head back to school next week, some will bring with them stories of beaches, sleeping until noon, or the family trip to the Grand Canyon.

Keith Ferguson, 15, discovered a way to streamline data entry for the City Hall’s inventory records, saving days, maybe weeks, of work for city employees.

“This is my first paying job,” said Ferguson, who will be a sophomore at Vicksburg High School when classes begin next week. “I like knowing I helped out the city, and knowing I can do the same job as older people.”

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Ferguson was one of 36 students who spent their summer working for the city.

He was assigned, along with four others, to the purchasing department to help employees there make up a recently discovered backlog in city property that needed to be entered into inventory lists.

Other students were assigned to departments from landscaping to accounting, with several working on rehabilitating houses for the elderly and others working on building a trail at Halls Ferry Park.

Ferguson said he wanted to get an early start on a career as a computer programmer.

Although he used to go with the other interns out to different city departments to record what equipment they had, his major contribution came when he figured out how to duplicate records for instance 4,000 chairs without typing them in individually.

“Now mostly I sit in this office and look cross-eyed,” he said. “But this is better than what I would be doing, just sleeping half the day and eating cereal.”

Mayor Robert Walker said both the city and the students benefit from the summer employment program.

“We have a lot of faith in young people,” Walker said. “All of them are not bad; some of them are outstanding role models.”

Walker had several interns in his office researching the names of U.S. Colored Troops who served in the campaign surrounding the Siege of Vicksburg and the later occupation.

Erin Powell, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, spent the summer with Rosalie Theobald and the Main Street program.

The public relations major helped organize the Miss Mississippi Parade, organized materials and attended events to promote investment in downtown Vicksburg.

“I could do this all day long and all week and not get bored,” Powell said. “This is going to be a good time in my life to look back on.”

Brian Fortune, 16, balked when he first heard his assignment: the Senior Center.

“At first I didn’t like it; I was ready to quit,” Fortune said. “Sometimes they have an attitude at that age.”

But before the summer ended, he was teaching computer classes for visitors in the center and serving as umpire for “beanbag baseball” in addition to doing dishes and vacuuming.

“As I got to know each of their personalities, I liked it more and more,” he said. “I talk to them when they need someone to listen.”

Anna Lisa Cockrell, director of the Senior Center, said Fortune will be missed when he heads back to Vicksburg High School.

“They all love him because he’s so friendly,” Cockrell said. “They pick on him about his big smile and those dimples.”