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Choctaw Nation Students Gain Work Experience

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This past June 1,504 Choctaw Nation students aged 14 to 21 participated in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a five-week summer program that immerses students in the world of work.

The student can work full-time in the field of their choice while earning a wage.

“The summer youth program introduces kids into the workforce,” said WIA Director Patty Mink in a press release, “and it puts a little money in their pockets.”

The program grew this year by 101 students; and the growth isn’t the only change.

“Participants are able to work at government or nonprofit businesses now,” said Mink, who has been the WIA director since July 1998, according to the release. “Lots of kids are picked up for employment after the program; it opens more doors for them.”

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A 2010 Durant Daily Democrat article pointed to Destiny Sullens, a student Mink was impressed with. While in the WIA program Sullens worked at Red River Museum in Idabel, Oklahoma, which she continues to do while on summer break from Columbia University.

According to the article, the WIA program has been around since the 60s, but started as an after-school program called Man Power. “In the last 11 or 12 years, the Choctaw Nation has helped supplement the program so we could hire more kids,” Mink told the Durant Daily Democrat.

The nation pays participant wages, which leaves just the training cost to the employer, and since only businesses in the nation’s 10-county area provide work, much of the money stays in the community.

Mink said the program motivates tribal members to seek and keep jobs. “The program really improves their self-esteem,” she said in the release. “They have to go out and find their own job in the field they are interested in; it’s a big motivator.”

Applications for the 2012 WIA program must be completed by April 15, 2012. For more information call 800-522-6170.