June 17, 2017 10:13:12 PM
The city of Columbus' summer job program will begin Tuesday, three weeks later than normal and after a mad scramble to put the program together.
"Yeah, it's been pretty crazy," said George Irby, the administrator of the city's summer jobs program, which began 24 years ago, but seemed destined to end this spring.
The program, funded with $20,000 in city funds and a $35,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), appeared to have come to at least a temporary halt in April when MDOT, citing budget cuts, announced it would not issue the grant this year.
On May 31, the city confirmed there would be no summer jobs program this year, but after seeing Irby interviewed on television about the suspension of the program, an anonymous donor texted Irby to say he would provide the $35,000 needed.
The program traditionally begins the day after Memorial Day and runs eight weeks.
"Our goal was to put together the program as quickly as possible because we knew the longer it took to get set up, the shorter the program could be," Irby said.
Irby said most of the work has been completed.
"We did in about 10 days what we normally do in about a month," he said. "We've finished the interviews. On Monday, we'll bring the kids in and they'll have the drug screen, fill out all the paperwork and then we'll send them out to work on Tuesday. Everything is in place, including the money."
The program provides full-time, minimum-wage jobs to students ages 16-to-24 who work primarily for the public works department.
Because of the late start, high school students will have just six weeks of work before school starts on Aug. 4. College students, Irby said, should be able to work eight-to-10 weeks, depending on when their college classes begin.
One benefit of the expedited program is that it frees up more money to allow more students to participate, Irby said.
"When you sit down with the kids and talk to them about why they applied, it really hits home what it means. They'll talk about using the money to help their moms or buying clothes for school. We had about a hundred kids apply and we'll be able to help 30. We'd like to help them all, but we're happy we can help those 30."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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