Student Employment

The program is called "School Counts" and is patterned after a similar program in New Jersey. On Tuesday, officials with the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation announced the official kickoff of the program in Lauderdale County.

"It is a partnership between businesses and education," said EMBDC School Counts coordinator, Duffee Williams. "It gives students incentives. If they do meet the criteria of the program, then they get priority consideration for jobs."

The criteria that students must meet include:

    1. Good school attendance.
    2. Punctuality.
    3. Maintain at least a "C" average in every subject.
    4. Be on target for graduation in four years.
    5. Exhibit other positive behavior in school.

Students who qualify receive a card stating their participation in the programidWilliams says already at least 65 businesses have agreed to take it into consideration when hiring.

Business development leaders say having a program such as this will not only help the students, but the community at large. They say this is true because in attracting businesses, one major determining factor is the overall work ethic of the available workforce.

"It's beginning to be more and more of a concern," said EMBDC chairman, Wallace Strickland. "I think good work ethics will definitely help us attract more jobs because it makes more people employable."

With this in mind, Meridian High principal R.D. Harris said his school is working to be part of the solution instead of the problem in attracting businesses to the area.

"Our responsibility is to educate the whole child," said Harris. "I was meeting with a group of businessmen the other day and they were concerned about how poorly kids speak and they said it's critically important for kids to come into an interview situation using the best English that they possibly can. And then also be aware that employers don't necessarily understand the 'hip-hop' language and if a person is going to employ you they don't have to."

Harris said the same goes for dress.

For more information on the "School Counts" program, contact your local school or the EMBDC at (601) 693-1306.