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Students get GED through workforce investment program

SALISBURY — Last fall, Cynthia McLean was struggling through school, three grades behind her peers.
Unsure of how she’d catch up, she decided to withdraw from Salisbury High School.
But in May she walked across the stage at Rowan Cabarrus Community College and received her GED.
“I can’t explain it,” Cynthia, 17, said of the feeling inside of her as she walked across the stage. “Everybody was happy. All of my family was there and everything. I was just like, ‘I did it!’”
Tyree Badger will soon take his final test to determine whether or not he’ll receive his GED.
The 18-year-old dropped out of Henderson Independent High School last fall after unwanted attention at the school, but was determined to finish school and earn his GED. His older brother participated in the program, and wanted give it a try himself.
Cynthia and Tyree were able to get their GED through the Workforce Investment Act program (WIA) Youth Program, which is a program offered by the federal government through Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency.
Not only have Cynthia and Tyree spent the summer working at Team Auto Group through the Summer Youth Employment program, they’ve also been reading and attending workshops.
They recently traveled to Orlando, Fla., to attend Disney’s Leadership in Excellence Workshop where they received customer service training and tips from Disney employees and attended sessions on business and entrepreneurship.
After they enroll in college this fall and earn 15 credit hours, they both hope to join the U.S. Air Force.
Cynthia wants to be a military police officer while Tyree wants to learn about computers.
Cynthia said she’s always been interested in becoming a law enforcement officer, and hopes to one day become an air marshal.
“I’ve been wanting to go into the military basically all my life,” she said. “I love their uniforms, the stuff they do, just everything. It’s basically going to be my career.”
Tyree wants to combine his love of computers with his passion for music.
“I want to branch off and make my own small business,” he said. “I might want to make a studio for my music.”
Cynthia and Tyree are two of 10 students enrolled in the WIA program this summer, where students are working at businesses in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
The summer employment is part of the WIA program, and students not only receive a paycheck, but learn business skills and life lessons.
Cynthia has been trying her hand at being a receptionist for the dealership, while Tyree has been a jack of all trades, working in the showroom, service department and doing things on the car lot.
“This job has taught me responsibility,” he said. “It teaches me how to work in the real life and how to budget my own money.“
“I’ve learned a lot of skills from checking tire tread to customer service and interacting with people.”
A WIA success story, Roge Givens, is now an employee at Team Auto Group, and a role model to Cynthia and Tyree.
“I know from experience that the WIA program is a program of opportunity,” Givens said. “After high school didn’t work out for me the WIA program took me in, they helped me stay out of trouble and see life in different perspective.”
Aside from Cynthia and Tyree’s teachers and directors at Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency and Team Auto Group, they both say their mothers have been their biggest fans through their year in the WIA program.
“My mom is basically my main supporter,” Cynthia said. “She loves that I’m actually wanting to do something with my life.
“She told me to stay in the program and go ahead to school and stick to my dreams.”
Tyree’s mother has given him the extra push to keep going, he said.
“She’s been supportive, and said to keep going until you get it,” he said. “And said that when you get it, strive for more.”
Almond Miller, business liaison for the WIA program, has traveled to the different workshops with the students, and said the entire staff helps shape the at-risk youth into mature and responsible adults.
“They’ve learned how to be self sufficient and be leaders,” Miller said.
And at the same time, she said, the students have “obtained a job and learned financial literacy while also being good students and learning the foundations of the academia world.”
“We know that they walk away with higher self esteem than when they came,” she said. “These aren’t bad kids, they just needed people to believe in them. It’s a really rewarding job.”

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