Program teaches students life skills

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2005

In the two years since its founding, the About Face after-school program has been successful in helping financially-burdened youth get the career training they need, site manager J.L. Chestnut III said.

The program focuses on teaching area youth the life skills they’ll need once they graduate from high school and begin on their career path, including how to write a resume, fill out employee applications and balance a checkbook.

“This program has been very helpful to me because it taught me a lot about things I didn’t know,” About Face student Ashley Renee Carter said.

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Nykesia Buchanan, a senior at Selma High, said she enjoys being a part of the program because it has given her work experience.

About Face students are placed at various job sites around the community, like the Selma Mall and Calhoun Foods, to help them get work experience and earn some money at the same time.

“The students are required to do 20 hours of work at a local business,” Samuel Coleman, About Face Work Experience Supervisor, said. “We pay the students for their work, so it doesn’t cost the employers anything.”

Chestnut said About Face also provides college scholarships for the program’s graduates.

“Generally, a large number of the kids in the program go on to college or the service,” Chestnut said. “We’ve been really proud of what these students have accomplished.”

About Face is funded through a federal grant from the National Guard. Selma has one of only three About Face programs in the state.

Students in the program meet at the National Guard Armory on Highway 80 four nights a week for eight weeks, followed by another session the summer.

“It’s a year-round program,” Chestnut said. “We work with one class for eight weeks, then bring in another class for eight. In the summer, we bring both classes together.”

Along with working at a job site, students are also taken on field trips to Birmingham and Montgomery and receive one-on-one tutoring from professionally trained teachers.

“These students are really serious about their work,” About Face teacher Grace Johnson said. “They stay focused on task really well.”

About Face accepts around 30 students per session, Chestnut said, and the popularity of the program usually means slots fill up quickly.

“We only have a few slots available in March when the program starts up again,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut said the program operates in partnership with Dallas County High, Selma High, Southside High, Keith High and Selma Middle C.H.A.T. Academy.

“It’s a great a great program,” Theresa Butler, another About Face student said. “We learn a lot of different things, plus we get paid.”