Summer Youth Employment Program proves Salisbury’s future is in good hands

Published 12:07 am Sunday, August 20, 2023

SALISBURY — If a person goes online or watches the news, it won’t take long for them to begin worrying about the future. With all of the crises, discourse and problems people deal with on a regular basis, it might feel too easy to write off any anticipation that things will get better. However, if someone took the time to get to know some of the teenagers and students who are entering the work force and will soon be taking the world by storm, their outlook would do a complete 180.

The city of Salisbury follows this belief and has been putting their money where their mouth is. Literally. After being gone for a few years due to COVID, the city decided to reintroduce the Summer Youth Employment Program for 2023, where three high school aged students were selected to job shadow, assist local departments and go behind the scenes to see what goes on in Salisbury, all while getting paid in the process.

“It’s to ensure that the youth know what a career in local government is like. With the hope that they come back when they are of age and apply for one our positions and make an impact here,” Human Resources Business Partner Souwan Kiengkham said.

The program is funded through the Community Development Block Grant that planning and neighborhoods helps distribute. Any student who lives within city limits and meets the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income requirements are eligible. Every applicant had to submit an application, write an essay, and go through an interview process in order to be selected.

In the end, the city chose three students: Bralen Mitchell, a rising junior at East Rowan High School; Eva Carter, a rising senior at Jesse C. Carson High School; and Kimberly Turcios, a rising junior at Rowan County Early College. The students spent one week at one department over a four-week period. They all worked with the police department and human resources, but each got the chance to get involved in a field that they had a personal interest in.

Mitchell wants to be an entrepreneur someday, so Downtown Salisbury Inc. introduced him to local small business owners to get advice on how to get started. He also rode along with the fire department to an actual fire. Mitchell realized that it could be possible to be a firefighter and business owner after he spoke with firefighters who simultaneously accomplished both.

“I could really be a firefighter and do this, make my business,” Mitchell said.

Turcios plans on joining the Navy after she finishes school to be a sonar technician, so she wanted to study the more intricate aspects of the city. Besides police and HR, she worked with public works and planning and neighborhoods.

“Learning how wiring works and getting my hands all dirty and learning how it’s going to help me with my future career in the Navy,” Turcios said. “This is a great opportunity for me to help out the community and learn how the city itself helps out.”

Carter has grown up in Salisbury since she was two years old. She and her grandmother have always been active in the city and she wanted to “give back the same joy, kindness and enlightenment they’ve given us” by joining Summer Youth Employment Program. Her favorite part was discovering more about her preferred profession.

“Ever since I was young I loved the mind, I loved the body, I loved learning about all that gruesome anatomy stuff. Recently, my sophomore and junior year, I decided I wanted to be a forensic pathologist. Being in the police department has only cemented my belief in my future career,” Carter said.

Besides meeting with several departments, the students had to do a community service project, where they donated over 300 pounds of food with the help from the city to Rowan Helping Ministries. The students praised the program and Salisbury could not be happier with who they hired.

“These three were awesome students to have. They were engaged, we loved having them with each of the departments. I heard great feedback from all the mentors on how willing they were to jump right in and learn about each department,” Kiengkham said.

One of the things that made this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program different was that the students met with a trainer to do a self assessment to learn more about themselves and how they can apply what they know to their jobs and education. The three of them will be taking what they learned during the program and adopting those new habits to the upcoming school year. For anyone who wants to do the program next year, they recommend studying as many departments as possible.

“Definitely dip your toes in as many departments as you can, but make it a widespread effort…Really branch out because when you do you can get the full experience of Salisbury and understand how much this city truly does work together to make it a running, working system,” Carter said.

Kiengkham says the city and Rowan Salisbury School System CTE Department will attempt to get the word out for the program earlier for next year so that it can last longer and hire more participants. By the end of August, Kiengkham said their finance team should find out how much of the grant funds are left over before they apply for it again next year.

“Hopefully it’s a continual cycle like we did prior to COVID where we can have a revolving partnership with the schools and the students,” Kiengkham said.

During the last Salisbury City Council meeting, Mitchell, Carter, and Turcios were officially recognized by the city for what they have done for Salisbury and commended for their exuberance to join local government over the summer.

“Thank you for entrusting us with your summer to learn some things to come back and recontribute to the city of Salisbury. We look forward to seeing you later in life,” Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Sheffield said.