By Curt Yeomans
Van Le never held a job before this summer, but she ended up learning a lot about working with children.
Le, 16, spent July working as a camp counselor at the Time For Learning Summer Camp in Riverdale, through the city's Summer Youth Employment Program. She said the experience helped prepare her to eventually pursue a career as a pediatrician.
"It feels really great to have spent my summer doing this, because I learned so much from the children, particularly about how to be patient with them," Le said.
The city celebrated the conclusion of the third annual youth employment program on July 25 with a pizza party at the Awesome, Inc., Summer Camp at Riverdale Presbyterian Church. Awesome, Inc., the City of Riverdale and the Clayton County Cooperative Extension Office collaborated on the program this year.
The teenagers spent four days a week working at local libraries, summer camps and the Clayton County Alzheimer's Center. They were paid a minimum-wage salary, and could not work more than 20 hours a week, said Elaine Connally, executive director of Awesome, Inc.
Every Friday, youngsters in the program were at the Riverdale Presbyterian Church participating in workshops on job interviews, writing a resume, and how to behave in a professional manner.
"For a lot of these kids, it was their first job experience that they could put on a resume," Connally said. "From that, they learned resume-writing skills, as well as how to interview for a job."
During the end-of-the-summer celebration, Lonnie Ballard, Riverdale's assistant city manager, shared some of the praise the employers heaped on the teenagers.
"I talked to many of your supervisors and they raved about your performances," Ballard told the teenagers. "They even compared you guys to previous classes, and they felt you were stellar."
Emonica Welsh, 14, said she learned with the children she worked with at Awesome, Inc.'s summer camp. She worked in a group called, "Go Girls Go," that teaches young girls life skills, such as how to take care of themselves.
"We taught them the essentials, such as managing their anger, dealing with bullies and how to have self-respect," Welsh said.
"I learned how to work with different people, from different backgrounds, as well as records-keeping and retention, and dealing with finances," said Vanessa Okolie, 16, who worked with the Campus Kids summer camp. "It was fun, I enjoyed myself and I learned a lot of new things."