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September 21, 2014

Water board helps students learn engineering, work ethic

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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 5:13 pm | Updated: 5:25 pm, Wed Jul 2, 2014.

Anniston High School student Tyler Johnson is doing more than just working a summer job.

The 17-year-old is preparing for college and a future career.

Since June 9, Johnson has worked full-time for the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, helping out in the field with surveys, measuring ground elevations, identifying the location of sewer lines and other duties. Johnson said he hopes the training will help him in college when he majors in civil engineering.

"I've been thinking for a while of what I want to major in college, but having a good idea is not good enough, I need to know I'll enjoy doing it," said Johnson, who also plays for the high school football team. "So far, I'm loving it."

Johnson is one of several area students working for the water board this summer as part of two programs designed to foster interest in engineering and to teach job skills and a strong work ethic.

"So far this year it's been really successful," Ed Turner, general manager for Anniston Water Works, said of the programs. "We're pleased with the process and will continue to partner with the high school in any way we can."

Johnson is just the beginning of a full-scale program the high school hopes to initiate next year called Pathway to Engineering. Edward Sturkie, assistant principal for Anniston High, said the school recently received a $150,350 state grant to pay for the program. The idea, Sturkie said, is to place students in different engineering-related jobs around the city.

"It's more or less to get students interested in these types of jobs ... we're trying to get them involved in engineering, that's what the Pathway to Engineering grant is for," Sturkie said.

Turner said the water board has wanted to do more to help the community for some time.

"We wanted to give a student an opportunity to learn our business ... this is something we want to continue for the kids who follow behind Tyler," Turner said. "The board is all about community involvement."

Meanwhile, this is the second year the board has participated in the Yes Program, organized by the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department and the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. This year, the board has four area students participating in the program, receiving minimum wage from the city to provide services at various water department facilities.

"They're doing light maintenance, like cutting the grass at our facilities," said Rodney Owens, assistant general manager for Anniston Water Works. "That meets a big need for us."

Steven Folks, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the program meets a big need for area high school students and even some college students too. Folks said the city has provided funding this year to place 28 area high school and college students in summer jobs at businesses throughout the city with the help of the chamber. On top of doing the jobs, each student must provide 20 hours of community service.

"It's not about getting paid," Folks said of the program. "It's a chance to develop work ethic and it’s a resume builder and it's a chance to teach you how to do jobs and go through the interview process."

Johnson said he'd recommend his experience to any other student willing to work and learn.

"It's a full day's work, so you have to be dedicated and it's a lot of responsibility," Johnson said. "But it's a great opportunity for your education and job you seek to pursue."

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