Job fair helps residents find path

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Ronnie Rhodes, right, shakes hands with Ascension Parish Human Resources Director Sherry Kinchen during the Community Opportunities - The Arc of East Ascension's job fair at the Gonzales Civic Center in Gonzales on March 21.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Ronnie Rhodes, right, shakes hands with Ascension Parish Human Resources Director Sherry Kinchen during the Community Opportunities - The Arc of East Ascension's job fair at the Gonzales Civic Center in Gonzales on March 21.

Donaldsonville High School student Dequwan Smith, 18, stopped at the Regions Bank booth during a recent job and career fair looking for information about how to set up a savings account.

Smith already had picked up new pamphlets and information about welding classes he wants to take at River Parishes Community College.

All in all, Smith said, the Community Opportunities — The Arc of East Ascension’s job fair on March 21 was a success, helping him further his plans for after graduation.

Teacher Trudy Bates agreed.

“We push them every day to succeed, but when someone from the outside pushes them and tells them what it takes, it really makes a difference,” Bates said.

Bates and Donaldsonville High teacher Joann Edwards took nine students to the job fair hoping they would find a path to success after high school.

“Every little bit of information they get makes a difference,” Bates said.

Last year’s job fair “caused two of my students to take a second look at their lives and they really turned things around,” Bates said. “It made a tremendous difference.”

Making a difference in the lives of students, residents and those with disabilities was the goal for event organizer Cheryl Rice, a coordinator with The Arc.

More than two dozen businesses, colleges, government agencies and nonprofit organizations were on hand to talk about the careers and programs they offer.

Rachel Periou, recruiting coordinator with Regions Bank, said she was recruiting high school students looking for part-time college jobs as tellers.

“I love seniors ... because many of them need a four-year part-time job while they are in college,” she said.

Seniors from area high schools attended the daylong job fair.

Sharon Morris, senior financial service specialist with Regions, talked to those attending about Regions’ “At Work” program, which helps residents become financially successful.

“Regions is always looking to get involved in the community and this is one of the ways we can do that,” Morris said.

The job fair was held in conjunction with Disabilities Awareness Month, Rice said.

The Arc, she said, uses the job fair as a way to raise awareness of its programs and services for residents with disabilities.

The nonprofit agency offers an adult day training program and a supported employment program to help residents with disabilities. Supported living, personal care, center-based respite and other programs also are offered at the agency’s office, 1122 S.E. Ascension Complex Blvd., Gonzales.

The agency also celebrated Disabilities Awareness Month with a Family Fun Day on Saturday in Gonzales.

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