As 17-year-old Raina Brown quickly made her way through a stack of emergency medical bills on a bustling Thursday morning at Escambia County Public Safety, you’d never know she’d only been doing her job for a couple of months – or that she just graduated high school in May.
Rather than just enjoying a break before starting her college education, Brown – who plans to be a nurse – spent her summer working for Public Safety through the Escambia County Youth Employment Program. She learned the ins and outs of Emergency Medical Services billing, insurance, customer service and related skills, also becoming CPR certified.
Brown was one of 76 local youth who participated in the Youth Employment Program this summer, which gave 16 to 24-year-olds the opportunity to get paid work experience in various county departments, including Public Works, Public Safety, Escambia County Area Transit, West Florida Public Libraries and more.
Through the program, youth worked up to 30 hours a week at minimum wage, gaining valuable experience all summer while learning workforce etiquette such as professional dress, timeliness and respect.
Raina Brown prepares bills to be mailed at Escambia County Public Safety.
Brown said she was excited to work with computer programs and learn terminology often used in hospitals, which she said will help her in the future as she studies to become a registered nurse.
“Just knowing that I am getting an opportunity to do something like this, and the fact that I know it’s going to help me in the future makes it a lot better for me, and a lot more fun because I know I’m going to take something out of this,” she said. “It’s not just a job, it’s not just fast food – it’s something that I can keep with me forever.”
Brown’s supervisors were so impressed with her that they hired her after the program ended to work part-time while she attends Pensacola State College to get her associate degree.
“Raina is the type of person who’s a go-to,” EMS Billing Manager Shandra Jenkins said. “She takes the initiative, and she thinks outside the box. She would be an asset to any company that would employ her…Raina takes every challenge as an opportunity for growth.”
Several youth employees got to see what it’s like to work at one of the county’s seven public library branches, which was especially exciting for 17-year-old Sarah Hammer, who plans to be a librarian and author.
Hammer, who is starting her junior year at Pensacola High School, said the Youth Employment program gave her a great first job experience that helped build a solid foundation for when she begins her career as a librarian.
Sarah Hammer organizes books at the Pensacola Library branch on Spring Street.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Hammer said. “A lot of learning opportunities, a few challenges, but mostly it’s been a good time…I’ve enjoyed getting the basics now so that when I try to get a real job in a library or I try to become an actual librarian, I already have the basic knowledge of what goes on in a library from day to day.”
Ben Areola, 17, also had his first job experience through the Youth Employment Program, spending his summer working with the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office as they prepared for the Aug. 28 primary. He worked on everything from preventative maintenance on the voting machines to making ballot decks to test the machines before election day.
Although the tasks were outside of Areola’s projected study field of architecture or engineering, he said he enjoyed the variety of the work and appreciated learning about timeliness, responsibility and how to work well with his supervisor.
“I’m always excited to get up in the morning and see what I’m doing, because it’s not like you do the same thing every day,” he said. “Because once you’ve done one thing, you have to do something different to get ready for the election. So I just enjoyed the work environment.”
Ben Areola, left, works with his supervisor Doug Browne on voting machine preparations for the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Doug Browne, a warehouse specialist with the Supervisor of Elections Office, supervised Areola over the summer and had nothing but positive feedback about working with him.
“I wish I had more of Ben,” Browne said. “He’s a very, very good employee. When I give him a task, he does it well. There are some things I gave him to do that he found an easier way to do it, so he was quicker at it – he’s always thinking about stuff like that.”
For one youth employee, working with the county over the summer helped solidify his plans to pursue studies in video and digital production. James Hill, a 19-year-old sophomore at Florida State University, worked in the county’s Community and Media Relations Division. His tasks included filming and editing videos for the county’s TV station, ECTV, working in the studio during the live broadcast of county commission meetings and making online documents compatible with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
“My experience has been pretty interesting,” Hill said. “It’s been a learning experience, and it kind of helped me reevaluate what I like about videos and photos and editing. And it was also a learning experience because I had more of a sense of responsibility having to do certain things on my own.”
James Hill works with lighting equipment in the Community and Media Relations studio.
Youth Employment Program participants also received job readiness training and post-employment briefings, which provided them feedback about their job performance. The youth workers were recognized by District 3 Commissioner Lumon May and Neighborhood & Human Services staff at a ceremony Thursday, Aug. 9.
Information about future cycles of the Escambia County Youth Employment Program will be posted at myescambia.com/youthemployment and on the Escambia County Facebook page.
Summer 2018 Youth Employment Program participants