DECATUR— Danasia Nelson hopes to be a dental hygienist one day.
Thanks to a partnership between the Boys & Girls Club and Workforce Investment Solutions, the 17-year-old MacArthur High School senior is getting a jump start on what it's like to have a real-world career.
She's involved in the CareerLaunch program available to juniors and seniors in Decatur and Macon County.
Since the beginning of June, she's been spending weekdays gaining hands-on experience working as a receptionist at the Boys & Girls Club. It's designed to help students gain workplace knowledge and career skills, as well as preparation for a post-secondary education.
Other students on Tuesday were outside learning maintenance skills. Nelson, one of five students involved in the program this year, plans on taking college courses to pursue her dream of being a dental hygienist.
"This program was open to just get experience," Nelson said Tuesday. "If I worked at Burger King, like a regular job that other high schoolers work, I wouldn't get the experience that I needed to be able to do a career. This is more geared to actually help me in the future."
Shamika Bond, executive director of The Boys & Girls Club, said the program extended from their original CareerLaunch available to children ages 13 and under. Funding from Workforce Investment allowed them to enhance the career program and offer training to high school juniors and seniors.
"Once they enroll in the program, they're able to get stipends for just coming to the Boys & Girls Club and participating in these programs," Bond said.
During the school year, students go through 21 teaching sessions at The Boys & Girls Club, receiving financial training and career development and learning skills like human resource procedures in a workplace, building resumes, filling out an application and participating in mock interviews.
"Even something as simple as requesting time off," Bond said.
After completing the learning sessions, students transition to 10 weeks of "hands-on" work experience over the summer and get paid through Workforce Investment. Bond said the program also helps students work toward a post-secondary education and "any type of training they're trying to get into."
"I think it's a good program for the kids to show them responsibility so they can have their own income coming in and to just gear them up for the future," said Teen Reach Director Charlotte Cook. "And to keep them out of trouble because if they're working a job, they'll be too tired to go be in the streets."
The program launched fall 2019 and enrollment for the next fall session will be open Aug. 1-31, Bond said.
"We try to put them with their interest base," she said. "However, with this program we are hoping, once the pandemic is over, to place these children at different organizations throughout the city so they can get other experience outside of the Boys & Girls Club."
All high school students in Decatur and Macon County are eligible to participate and can enroll by contacting Charlotte Cook at (217) 422-9605.
PHOTOS: Boys & Girls of Decatur Valentine's Day Dance
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Contact Garrett Karsten at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrettKarsten
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