Junior Achievement gives teenagers job experience

After spending two hours working at Publix in National Hills, Academy of Richmond County freshman Jonathin Watts discovered that when he bagged groceries, coordination and communication skills were helpful.

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Publix bakery clerk Melissa Barfield (center) shows Falyssia Williams and Terrell Williams how to package pastries during Junior Achievement's Job Shadow Day.  C. Samantha McKevie/Staff
C. Samantha McKevie/Staff
Publix bakery clerk Melissa Barfield (center) shows Falyssia Williams and Terrell Williams how to package pastries during Junior Achievement's Job Shadow Day.

"When you make them feel welcome, they'll come a lot more," Jonathin, 15, said of helping customers.

Ciarra Smith learned that working at a grocery can require a lot of standing.

Kayla Roberts realized that making a corsage and a candy bouquet in the floral department can be "fun - surprisingly."

Jonathin, Ciarra and Kayla were among 375 area high school students who participated in Junior Achievement's Job Shadow Day on Friday.

After a kickoff at Fort Discovery, the students were taken to 52 businesses in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties, where they worked for four hours, said Laurie Cook, the executive director of the Augusta area program.

Ms. Cook said the annual event is an essential aspect of Junior Achievement, which provides economic programs to children in kindergarten through 12th grades through a partnership with local businesses and community volunteers.

"It exposes the kids to what opportunities are out there. I think something like this is real important, and it's a lot of fun, too," she said. "Also, a lot of young people don't have role models. This way they can see people pursuing their dreams."

Participating businesses include Best Buy, John Deere, Brandon Wilde, The Augusta Chronicle, Doctors Hospital, television station WJBF, Georgia Power, E Auction and SRP Federal Credit Union. Students went to four Publix stores, including the National Hills supermarket, where Jerry Sapp is the store manager.

Mr. Sapp said his store has participated in the event for about eight years. He puts the students to work making cupcakes and floral arrangements, bagging groceries, straightening shelves and gathering shopping carts. The event is good for the community, he said.

"It helps our job market. Some of the kids see what we're doing, they may like it and want to come work (here)," he said. "Some have never been in a work environment."

Gloria Jones, the career technology teacher at Richmond Academy, accompanied the students to Publix.

"They're getting the exposure of actually working in the real world," she said. "They're learning at an early age the many avenues and careers they can pursue."

Terrell Williams, 14, found the employees pleasant and was surprised because he "didn't think people would be that happy" about working.

Scott Thompson, 15, enjoyed getting a chance to assist elderly customers.

"I love it here; this is my store now," he said. "It was a lot better than I'd thought it was."

Jonathin agreed.

"We should do this again sometime," he said, "like next Friday."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.


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