By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Willie Jennings had a heck of a time convincing the rest of the City Council to spend $35,600 of taxpayer money for seeds.
The Ward 7 councilman is a painter and landlord by profession, not a farmer.
But for four consecutive fiscal years, Jennings has succeeded in approving a city budget that funds Plant a Seed, an eight-week summer youth program.
Jennings’ intention for the effort led through the city’s human resources department and was focused on encouraging professionalism and a strong work ethic work while teaching teens about city government.
Two other council members, Mayor Jason Shelton and a handful of city employees joined Jennings and city taxpayers Thursday to meet this year’s crop – a group spending the summer working in various city departments.
Participants mingled outside Council chambers, discussing life skills, future plans and new insight about government functions.
Terrika White, 16, a rising junior at THS considering a career in social work, admits feeling anxious her first day at the Tupelo Police Department. Eight weeks later, she said, “they’re more friendly than I thought.”
THS senior Brittany Brock, 16, worked in human resources, learning about the department’s role assisting the city’s roughly 450 employees. She loved how the office handles so many tasks.
“Every day is different,” she said. “You never know what you’ll get into.”
Contanna Purnell, assistant director of human resources, looked at the group and felt optimistic.
“I see them as future role models, entrepreneurs and anything they want to be,” she said. “This is the city’s future.”