ASPIRE is a program focused on students

By DONNIE CAUGHMAN,

In the spring of this year the Simpson County Development Foundation was chosen as one of nine counties to participate in the ASPIRE Mississippi program, a community project sponsored by the Mississippi Development Authority, Entergy, and Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University.

As part of MDA’s ASPIRE program, each of the participating community teams were responsible for identifying and implementing a community project that helps improve the social and economic conditions within the community.

Projects should be something that addresses a need in the community, with all projects having measurable gains that relate to the community or economy.

Team members who volunteered from Simpson County are: Malory Yelverton, Evelyn Copeland, Cemper Scott, Dr. Dewayne Middleton,  Lacye Evans, Scott Barnes, Mayor Dale Berry, Mayor Todd Booth, and Donnie Caughman.

Since education is a key driver for better and more jobs, the group determined that improved job and work skills training for our high school seniors was essential and would increase their business training and entrepreneurship with shadowing and internship placement.

Meetings have been held with Principals and councelors of all three high schools in the county to discuss the ASPIRE Program in general and the Simpson County project specifically.

Counselors facilitated an assembly of current seniors at Mendenhall High, Magee High, and Simpson Academy in early September. Lacye Evans, Malory Yelverton, and Cemper Scott conducted an initial explanation to the groups regarding the scope, objectives, and purpose of the training. Applications were given to students who were interested in the project and returned to their counselors.

A panel of local business professionals from throughout the county volunteered to speak before the students to explain basic job and work skills and what was required by them to be successful. A second session with speakers was held and a final reduction of students was made with forty-seven students moving forward.

The Simpson County Development Foundation sent letters to each of the final group of students inviting them to a combined meeting on Tuesday, November 13th at Copiah Lincoln Community College, Simpson Center, where the Job and Work Skills Training will continue with Ms. Kimberly Funchess with Families First for Mississippi was the guest lecturer, and concentrated on workforce training from the perspective of resume preparation, time management, interview skills, social manners, etc.

From these forty-seven students, the top ten from each high school will be selected to move forward with the shadowing and apprenticeship phase associated with volunteer businesses and companies.

The ASPIRE Program has been a challenge for the group of volunteers, but the reward has been tremendous to assist these youngsters with new job performance and work skills. Through our efforts, we expect to make a difference in the lives of these high school seniors as they go out in a new world after high school graduation.