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Rome businesses partner with College and Career Academy to help students prepare for work

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A group of local students are developing much-needed work skills by helping local businesses through the Floyd County College and Career Academy’s community-based instruction and work study program.

On Monday, the four students spent their morning getting Harvest Moon Cafe set up for business.

“We come in, refill all of the salt and pepper shakers … cut lemons, wash windows,” explained Bo McKenzie, the program instructor and coordinator. “They weigh and separate meat for orders so the cooks can just grab the right amounts easily.”

As part of their class, the students work at different businesses around town to receive experience and learn life skills, McKenzie said.

The program was started 12 years ago, according to CCA director Eric Waters. The students receive class credit for the work, as well as learn about job choices.

“We created it to meet needs and help kids find gainful employment,” Waters said. “We try to serve every student, whether they want to go to college, into a career or enter the workforce right after graduation.”

The work study students travel around all week, helping out at places such as Harvest Moon, Brewhouse Music & Grill, Piggly Wiggly in Lindale, CiCi’s Pizza, the Garden Lakes and Pepperell schools, Ransom Floral Co., Kmart and the YMCA.

“At Kmart they help unload trucks and separate stock, so it really helps them learn organizational skills,” McKenzie said. “You would be amazed at all of the work they get finished.”

The students make Mondays easier for the entire Harvest Moon staff, according to manager Matthew Payne.

“We do a lot of reset on Mondays,” he explained. “It is refreshing to come in on Monday and know I always have extra help, plus it’s good for the students.”

One of the students has even impressed the staff so much, they are talking about hiring him on during the summer, Payne added.

“His name has come up during the managers’ meeting,” he laughed. “It is always great when we can find someone who knows what to do and we know how they will work. Restaurant work either clicks with you or it doesn’t. You have to know how to be proactive in a reactive environment.”

The community-based instruction program also allows students to tour industries such as HON and Southeastern Mills, said McKenzie.

“We try to take them to places where they may be able to find industrial work,” he said. “It gives them a glimpse into different types of places, lets them decide whether they are interested in pursuing a career there.”

Waters said many of the program’s participants have gone on to find jobs locally.

“One young man who went through the program found a job with a local landscaping company and several have found jobs with construction firms,” Waters said. “We also have quite a few who now work at local restaurants as servers.”

McKenzie added that he and other program officials are always looking for new businesses to let the students work. He’s asking any local business owners interested in participating to call the CCA at 706-236-1860 and ask for him.