LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Not everyone at the Houston County Senior Center is there for a game of dominoes. Some are at work. Three seniors work there for minimum wage, paid for by a summer grant through DETCOG.
"Gives them something to be active and do," said Youth & Senior Program Coordinator Fred Newtz.
The grant also pays teens minimum wage to work on beautification projects around the county. This year the project continues with Newtz at the wheel.
"Learning how to get up, be somewhere on time and the enthusiasm they display is fantastic," said Newtz.
All of the projects benefit the county in some way: picking up litter on county roads, helping out the rangers at Ratcliff State Park. One of the major projects of the summer youth program is cleaning up cemeteries that have been identified as needing work.
The program's first summer was such a success this year, it's expanding to serve at-risk teens.
"They said, 'hey, let's give these people an opportunity to reach and touch a few more,'" said Frank Minton.
Concentrating on outlying communities such as Lovelady, Latexo, Grapeland and Kennard.
"We went to each of the schools and said, 'do you have students who have dropped out of school?'" Minton said. "'Or are at risk or someone who is not being successful in school - that you think we can reach out and help?'" said Minton.
Through the program, 20 students will hold minimum-wage jobs, while enrolled in GED prep courses. It's an incentive to keep moving forward.
"Just like the world of work: we say be on time, show progress, be willing to accept instruction," said Minton.
Work ethic, discipline, education and a pay check make these Houston County programs a success for both the teens and the seniors taking advantage of the opportunity.
The new at-risk program kicks off tomorrow and will last for eight weeks. The hope is that each student will be ready to take, and pass their high school equivalency test and earn a diploma.