By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - It's 2 p.m. on a sunny afternoon in June and a cool breeze from the Indian River Lagoon occasionally breaks through the warmth in Fort Pierce.
But even though it's officially summer, there are 16 students who are spending their days doing more than just relaxing.
One of them is Areen Williams, who won't be found by the pool or at the movies. She's busy filing and doing other administrative tasks at Fort Pierce City Hall. Areen, who is going into the 11th grade at Fort Pierce Central in August, is one of the 389 applicants who was hired to fill one of 16 positions in this year's eight-week summer work program.
"This is the second year of the program," said Tony Barnes, purchasing director for Fort Pierce and one of the organizers of the program. "Last year, we hired 12 and it was so successful we decided to do it again."
Dakota Lawrence, an incoming 12th grader at Fort Pierce Westwood High School, works counseling younger children at the Fort Pierce Police Athletic League.
"I love it," she said of the program. "It's great working with the kids."
Every year, money is set aside in the city's budget to hire temporary workers over the summer, when a majority of city staff go on vacation. Last year, it was suggested the city use the money to hire young people to fulfill the same responsibilities, and the Summer Youth Employee Program was created. The students work full-time for $10 an hour for the internship.
"There are summer camps for the younger children, but nothing is really there for the young adults," Mr. Barnes said. "This program keeps them productive, and they can use the internship to guide what they want to do in the future."
Areen works in the finance department and is grateful for the opportunity.
"I was lucky to be part of the internship," she said. "My major is computer science, but I believe this will help my career."
A committee tried to match the students, ages 16 through 21, to their interests. The applicants are working in other departments such as public works, administration, the police department and the housing authority.
The hardest part, Mr. Barnes said, was limiting the selection to only 16 applicants.
"Each and every one was deserving," he said. "We hope to be able to open it up to more students next year."