JACKSONVILLE — I have two words to describe the city of Jacksonville's summer work program I recently participated in:
I like to think I was one of the target candidates for this program. I had just graduated Jacksonville High School in May — the summer directly before beginning my freshman year at Jacksonville College.
And I needed something to occupy my time to keep me from, you know, getting bored and mischievous and stuff.
Don't get me wrong. Working for the city of Jacksonville was hard, hard, labor. I'm not really built for hard labor. It certainly isn't as fun as my side career of writing and publishing my own comic books. It DEFINITELY wasn't free money given to me while I sat on my rear end and did nothing.
No. No. No. No. I had to work for this money.
As a nap-oriented person, I don't think I would consider this a “favorite” job. But that's mostly because there was so much personal responsibility and effort involved.
But it certainly wasn't the worst job, I could have had. After all, I made friends, made money, got my first Texas ID card, started my very first account here locally at Austin Bank and learned a lot about work ethic. Tons.
However there were many downsides — as my family, co-workers, or boss would quickly tell you:
At the time I started, I was a whiner. Wendell Whiner, attorney at law. I didn't have a shred of work ethic in me. None. At all. My boss and my supervisors all knew I was a slacker.
But my superiors in the Jacksonville public works department didn't let me get away with goofing off. They accepted nothing less than my very best. And Jacksonville Public Works Director Will Cole himself pulled me aside at one point and told me I needed to “man up,” quit needlessly complaining, and get my job done.
I like to think it is because of their encouragement and refusal to accept excuses from me that I became a harder worker. A better person.
I worked through heat rashes and allergies and much much more to get out of the “slacker” rut. But inside my head I never could get rid of that label.
I think the important part about the entire experience is it opened my eyes to my own behavior and tendency to offer excuses instead of results. If you're going to work a job like that, you'd best bring your A-Game. Or you're going to walk away A-Shamed. Of yourself.
My co workers had their own honor system. They worked hard, they made their bosses proud, and watched each others' backs. My Dad tells me that's a lot like military teamwork.
This program is available for application at the end of each school year. Jacksonville ISD juniors and seniors are welcome to apply. I would highly recommend it, because it offers that taste of responsibility, work ethic, and, yes, pay to young people whose families live in and pay taxes in Jacksonville.
Each student employee is required to take responsibility for his or her actions and work.
Working within a group and as part of a team is an indescribable experience. Mr. Cole told me and my Dad that a very high percentage of young men who work in this program continue to become successful and productive citizens.
Any student who is interested in applying for a similar position next summer can contact the city's public works department at (903) 589-3510 to inquire.
But if you're like me, let me warn you: After a summer working with them, the inside of a classroom is going to look like a fantastic place.
Really, what Mr. Cole and his people have to offer youngsters like me is a lot, A LOT, more than a simple summer work program.
It's REAL WORLD 101. And I think I earned a "C Minus" this summer — if THAT. :-)
My thanks to City Manager Mo Raissi and Mr. Cole for this fantastic opportunity.
Jake Tinsley, who turns 19 in November, is a freshman at Jacksonville College. He is publisher and lead writer for Wham Bang Comics, is the creator of the “Night Owl” series and has over five years of writing and publishing experience. He can be reached at (817) 908-4554 or firstname.lastname@example.org.