City and county job programs help students earn and learn

Published 8:03 pm Saturday, June 30, 2018

Two of the biggest local employers of students during the summer are the city of Vicksburg and Warren County, which presently employ a total of 57 high school and college students working in different city and county offices.

Antoinette Bradley, the city of Vicksburg’s human resources director, said the city’s program this year employs 30 students spread through city offices.

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“We want to give as many youth an opportunity to work for the city of Vicksburg and experience in a professional environment,” she said. “We have been doing this a long time.”

The city changed its criteria for hiring this year, requiring applicants to have at least a 2.0 grade point average, be a resident of Vicksburg or Warren County, and a graduating high school senior entering college or a college student.

“What we decided to do this year, we changed the criteria a little bit where you could not have worked with the summer program before, so that we could give more youth in our community an opportunity to have this great advantage.”

The human resources staff examined students’ resumes and applications and put them through an interview process to place them with a department that would be compatible with their career goals.

The 20-week program began June 6 and goes to July 20. Students work about 20 hours a week, and Bradley said time is allowed for summer vacations and to attend school-related activities like orientation. One student, she said, is going to ROTC basic camp.

So far, she said, none of the student workers have returned to take full-time jobs with the city, although one student worker’s experience working in the human resources department inspired her to change her college major to human resource management.

District 3 Warren County Supervisor Charles Selmon, who oversees the county’s student enrichment program, said two former student workers have gone to work full time at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, but said the purpose of the program is not to recruit people to work for the county.

“The goal is primarily academics; for young people to further their education and vocational skills as a stepping stone for better things,” he said. He said the program presently employs 27 student workers ages 16 to 21.

Selmon said the program was begun five years ago by the Board of Supervisors and funded with the county’s gaming revenue.

“We started the program trying to get people to learn about county government because the average person doesn’t know what goes on in county or city government,” he said.

The program’s foundation, he said, was to “try and reward students who were making good grades in school or who were trying their best to get out of the cycle of poverty or get out of the cycle not being active in the summer.”

Selmon said the program helped the students learn about government as they worked in the different county offices.

“They became enriched by working for the county. These are people who are going to be working for this community or another community; these are people who really want something out of life,” he said.

The students, he said, are required to dress appropriately for their jobs “because we wanted to have people walk into a county office and not be able to tell students by the way they dress or look, or producing work, because they are going to be very active in doing something. These (students) are the best of the best.”

Selmon said students seeking a summer job with the county drop off their applications, accompanied by two letters of reference, in person at the Mississippi Department of Employment Securities WIN Center.

The applications and the letters are reviewed, as well as the student’s grade point average and information about extracurricular activities. The students are then interviewed by a panel of two or three people to select the top students.

“The process is a two-day period,” Selmon said. “Normally we choose 30-33 people and select 25, and we try to hire people who have never worked before. Sometimes, if we have enough time and money, we may hire more workers.”

Unlike the city, Selmon said, students who have previously worked for the county can be hired the next year.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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