COLUMBIA, S.C. — A local organization is working to give ninth and tenth graders in Lexington and Richland counties a chance to build life skills – through coffee.
Youth Corps met on Saturday morning to say goodbye to Jeff Becraft, its now-former executive director, who helped serve the organization for 17 years. He passed the baton to Oakley Dickson who now serves as the new executive director and brought with him an interesting idea.
Dickson, who took over as of Jan. 1, has the students taking a new and creative approach to learning real-world skills by starting their own coffee shop. They will be selling coffee in the Midlands to learn the way a business operates.
“When you get to ninth or tenth grade, that’s when kids begin to make integral decisions that will shape the rest of their lives,” Dickson said. “And so, this is a pivotal moment where these young people are going to make decisions of who they might become.”
Dickson added that it has been a nine-month process, and he said the bigger picture is not only focusing on the now but also the future.
“They get to see so many sectors of the business world,” he said. “They start to find out what they like about a community or what they don’t. Then, they see professionals who work in the city – whether it’s judicial, world, or finances and they sit there and begin to say, ‘Wow, I can do that.'”
Parents Cecil and Joyce Fletcher have seen the process work with both of their daughters.
“It’s an awesome experience,” one parent said. “It gives them things outside of school they would never learn or see.”
The Fletchers added that anyone considering the program should try to get their ninth or tenth grader involved.