Employment training conference encourages teens to outwit, outwork, outlast

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The Covington County Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities (CCCEPD) sponsored a one-day employment training conference for area youth, held April 8 in Andalusia.

The theme of the 9th annual conference was Survivor: The Employment Edition. The event connected more than 150 high school students with disabilities from 10 area schools to several different and exciting employment opportunities to explore in the community.

Bobby Jon Drinkard, a two-time finalist on the popular Survivor reality show and current host of Alabama Public Television’s On the Job, delivered the keynote address, encouraging students to remain motivated to “outlast and outwork” the competition when seeking employment.

At the conference, students attended six individual breakout sessions, each lead by community professionals. Michelle Perdue, human resources manager at Covington County Bank, lead a session on interviewing skills; Rachel Lilly, personnel manager at the Andalusia Walmart, gave an overview of retail careers; Michael Whelan, director of culinary studies at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College (LBWCC), discussed careers in the culinary field; James Mitchell of the Alabama Career Center talked about finding jobs through the Alabama Job Link; LBWCC Student Services Counselor Latrice Hall detailed different postsecondary education options; and Chancy Wyatt, a welding adjunct instructor at LBWCC, went over careers in welding.

Following the breakout sessions, conference attendees were entertained by Garrett Miles, a 2015 American Idol contestant who has optic nerve hypoplasia. Miles has only 10 percent vision in his right eye and none in his right. Between songs, he shared his personal story about overcoming obstacles to follow his dreams.

As the event drew to a close, eight students were each awarded $100 scholarships from the CCCEPD. The winners were Alize’ Jenkins, Andalusia High School; James Easterling, Straughn High School; Sam Schwartz, Pleasant Home High School; Kendalyn Belcher, Elba High School; Cheyanna Houston, New Brockton High School; Anthony McClain, Red Level High School; Jessica Pettus, Opp Youth Enrichment Services; and Devin Lenior, Andalusia Youth Enrichment Services.

“This event is always a huge success,” said Patrick Daugherty, business relations consultant and chairman of the CCCEPD. “We have great support from the community, and the kids really look forward to it each year. It’s all about connecting employers with future potential employees, and for nearly 10 years, we’ve been doing just that.”

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