CARE Program In Need of More Business Participation

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department C.A.R.E Program is looking to add more businesses to it's list of participants for the upcoming summer. 

C.A.R.E stands for carrer awareness related experience. The program gives kids ages 14-19 the opportunity to work in one of the job sites and gain work experience.The program was started over thirty years ago by Wanda Fay Albert and Bill Thompson. Ron Schmidt is the current program supervisor.

"It was started as a way to give kids an alternative to hanging out on the streets, and give them a chance to make some money and gain some work skills," Schmidt said. 

Kids work seasonally at the job sites for 8 weeks. While working their wages are payed by the program. The program also provides a job coach and work site supervisors to help them learn all the skills they need.

Schmidt says that it is a win win for everyone because it gives kids an opportunity to explore different careers and gain experience and the businesses essentially get free labor for the summer.

Last summer the program had 91 job sites and employed 180 trainees. This summer Schmidt is looking to add 5 more youths to bring the total to 185. Youths selected for the program have to opportunity to choose a job site that fits their interests. 

Schmidt is also looking to add more job sites this summer. He says they want to add sites in areas that are close to where trainees live to help with transportation issues. 

"We want to add more variety to choose from, but we also need to add more work sites in other parts of town," Schmidt said. 

Acme t-shirts is on Ninth street in Downtown Columbia. It is one of the businesses that expressed interest in participating in the program this year. Manager Avenly Jones says they have had alot of luck with the program in the past.

"We have a lot of students that work here, so it would be nice to have that extra help over the time when those employees are gone over breaks," Jones said. 

There was a high school student who had showed interest in working in the shop and was signed up for the program. Jones said she wanted to help that kid gain experience in this field and would love to have the extra help around the shop. 

Schmidt said he was particularly proud of the fact that once the 8 week session is over, one-third of trainees are hired by the business to stay on as full employees. One example of this is La'Toya Jackson. La'Toya was selected to participate in the program and placed to work at Maude Vintage Clothing when she was 14. Nine years later she still works there. 

"Yeah, it was a good fit, and I enjoy working here," Jackson said. 

Jackson has moved up the ladder at Maude and assumes a lot of responsibility. She said that a lot of employees will come to her with questions when the owner is not around. 

Jackson also said she maintains a close relationship with the shops owner Sabrina. 

"Sabrina is like family. I can talk to her whenever I need and come to her with any questions. She is a big part of my life," Jackson said.

La'Toya is currently getting a degree in early childhood development and would like to open her own daycare center when she graduates. When she does said she would participate in the C.A.R.E program and give other kids the opportunity she had to gain work experience and learn important skills. 

If your business would like to paticipate in the care program you may contact Ron Schmidt at rschmidt@gocolumbiamo.com or (573) 874-6377.

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