WIA, an annual program lasting five weeks of the summer, began on June 14. It allows students, ages 14-21 to obtain a summer job at various worksites within the 10-1/2 counties of the Choctaw Nation. These students are able to gain work experience while employed at a multitude of businesses such as libraries, flower shops, day cares and convenience stores.
This summer 1,403 students are partaking in the program. All participants are able to work up to 40 hours a week and are paid for their work efforts. They will be able to learn from the ground up of the business for which they chose to work.
“We want to teach these kids to be dependable and responsible,” stated Patty Mink, Director of WIA. “We want to give them valuable work experience and get them used to the workforce,” she continued.
WIA is a beneficial program and not just for the students, but for all involved. Choctaw Nation pays for the wages of the participants, giving the worksites the resource of labor for only the cost of training a new employee. Also, the wages the students earn are usually spent within the community, which boosts local businesses.
The students are allowed to choose the business where they would like to work.
Once they have made their selection, counselors, usually school counselors and sometimes people appointed by the Choctaw Nation, will approve the choice and guide them through the process of gaining employment.
WIA has been around for many years, dating back to the 60s as more of an after-school program. The original name was “Man Power” and was on a smaller scale. “In the last 11 or 12 years, the Choctaw Nation has helped supplement the program so we could hire more kids,” stated Mink.
Mink has seen several impressive students while overseeing the program. One student that stands out to her is Destiny Sullens. Sullens, a 21-year-old who spent her years in WIA working at Red River Museum in Idabel, impressed Mink by becoming a counselor at Harvard University.
While working for Red River Museum, Sullens would assist with various programs for children and help out with summer camps. She is a student at Columbia University, but spends her summers back in Idabel working at the museum.
Stories of success similar to that of Sullens are what keep the administrators of the program happy and the people of the Choctaw Nation proud.
WIA has a positive impact on students, business and communities all over the Choctaw Nation alike and is another step toward the Choctaw mission to “enhance the lives of all members.”
Anyone who would like to be a part of WIA, contact the WIA offices by calling 580-924-8280, ext. 2209. Applications for the next year will be available from Jan. 1 until April 15.