Wards of the state get hope, job skills from Columbia Urban League

By Stephen Hooker - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Columbia Urban League Youth Development Institute is all about helping teens in the Midlands -- not just teaching them skills, but also giving them hope that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

The teens are wards of the state whose faces can't be shown. They're not criminals looking to be rehabilitated, but innocent teens who, through no fault of their own, are now under the care of the state.

"Everybody's here for a reason," Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin told the teens on Thursday. "I mean, you guys are doing something right."

Every one of them asked to be there to learn how to make it in the world.

"[I'm going to] Clemson University and [my] major's going to be psychology," one girl said.

Another girl said she wants to be an anesthesiologist, and one boy said he's been accepted to tech college to studying mechantronics, the manipulation and control of robotic machinery.

And before you think "what nice dreams" or "best of luck with that," the likelihood of their success is over 70%. Many teens here have less ambitious goals, but they all have one thing in common -- they're doing something right.

The urban league's youth leadership development institute is feeding the teens ambitions, teaching them job etiquette skills and then getting them quality summer jobs.

"With me wanting to be a doctor, one of the jobs that my county is doing is working in a dentist's office," one teen said.

The businesses may have to do a little on-the-job training, but the urban league pays the teens' salaries. A successful recipe to help these teens make it in the business world.

"I want to open my own business, a psychology firm," the future Clemson student said. Chances are, she'll do it. After all, she's already been accepted.

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