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Miss. Students Find Big Shoes to Fill

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 12 Jul 2011 06:57pm | comments
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Finding work in this sluggish economy is tough for many Mississippians. Even high school students are having trouble landing service sector jobs this summer.  But some students aren't missing that apron and cash register.

 It's been a long road for Adriana Parker.  Her parents didn't go to college, but at 17, she has her sights set on becoming a teacher. She hopes her job this summer is the next step in that journey.

It's not teaching, but it's not fast food either.  She's working for Parents for Public Schools, an organization that helps parents get involved in the classroom. 

 “Now I’m more motivated, when I do become a teacher, to make sure my parents are involved in what my students are doing," Parker said. "Without the parents, the teacher really doesn’t have a say-so.”

Adriana's supervisor, Thea Faulkner, says employers should take interns seriously, even if they’re only in high school.  After all, they can often teach you something.

“Adriana has been able to talk to us about social media, because she understands Facebook and Twitter," Faulkner said.

But Adriana and Parents for Public Schools didn't find each other on their own. Operation Shoestring is the only youth-employment program in Mississippi that trains students before matching them with a career-building internship.  Robert Langford, executive director of Operation Shoestring, oversees their job-skills boot camp.

“Don’t just be on time - be early," said Langford, going over some lessons. "Leave your cell phone under your desk, turned off.  It's all that basic stuff that lot of us adults have trouble doing at work quite frankly."

After an entire spring of after school and weekend prep, students are placed in organizations like law offices and medical centers as well as non-profits.  With only 11 students placed this year, Operation Shoestrings Youth Employment Program is still young and learning the ropes, just like Adriana.  While they want to serve more students, they're also hoping their organization serves as a model for guiding at-risk-youth to college and career.

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