By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
RIENZI – Almost 60 youths took advantage of an opportunity Tuesday to participate in a leadership and life skills program organized by Region IV Mental Health.
From mock job interviews to a competition to become “The Apprentice,” the schedule of activities was designed to keep all the youths fully engaged throughout the day.
“We wanted to give them a chance to learn something different,” said Mary Smith, creator of the program and an adolescent opportunities program specialist for Prentiss County. “We have a group of community organizations that sit down and decide what we need and how can we do it.”
The event was hosted at Hopewell Baptist Church in Rienzi and brought together business managers, career specialists, people from the legal field, Northeast Mississippi Community College WIN Job Center staff, Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition coordinators, Mississippi State University Extension Service specialist and others to share their expertise.
“We set up the day like a big competition with door prizes for various events and a big prize at the end of the day,” Smith said.
Damien Miley, Teen OP participant of Iuka, won the “The Apprentice” competition last year and was glad to make a return.
“It’s interesting and entertaining,” Miley said, as he watched a trick-pool-shooting demonstration by Eric Yow. “I know I’m not going to be bored, and I learn skills I’m going to need in life – what to do, what not to do.”
In fact Yow, of Clarksville, Tenn. – an attorney and Church of Christ preacher as well trick pool-shooter – shared spiritual messages illustrated by his trick shots throughout his demonstration.
“Do you think this is beneath you?” Yow asked, as he conducted demonstrations where he had one of the youths repeatedly set a ball on the table to prepare for a shot. “You’re going to end up doing jobs you think are beneath you, jobs you don’t want to do, but it’s going to make you a better person.”
As the day wound down, Teen OP participant Cherylmeko Calvin of Horn Lake, said she hadn’t wanted to come, but really had a fantastic day.
“It’s helped me learn coping skills, given me a clearer view of things, see other points of view” Calvin said. “I understand more about self-control and self-respect.”