AVON PARK — A group of young and enthusiastic workers descended upon the campus of Ridge Area Arc recently for two days of work. The group, led by Eddie Cuencas, the Highlands County program specialist for South Florida State College’s Panther Youth Partners program, was divided into teams and given work assignments.

One team was assigned painting a classroom, another team washed and waxed Arc vans while another group tackled the carpet and windows at the Eckstadt House and the administration building.

Ridge Area Arc CEO Kathleen Border thanked the group before they began their first work day. Border emphasized the need for a volunteer workforce at Arc to complete tasks that would otherwise be overlooked. As Arc serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to wash and wax vans, paint and refresh a classroom that will house a new program, clean windows, clear vines and overgrown plants and pressure wash sheds.

The workforce of South Florida State College’s Panther Youth Partners provided Arc an incredible opportunity with their willingness to tackle these jobs.

South Florida State College’s Panther Youth Partners is a federally funded workforce program that provides participants with services that will develop and strengthen employability skills, talents, and interests. It is the program’s intent for participants to gain valuable information that they can draw upon, when seeking employment or when deciding upon a career change, throughout their life.

The program offers financial assistance, mentoring, advising/counseling, career development assistance, job shadowing and employability skills workshops. The program is open to individuals who meet specific requirements: Youth between ages 16 and 24 living in Highlands, DeSoto, Hardee, or Okeechobee County; high school drop out seeking to earn a GED; students completing GED and interested in taking classes to earn an occupational certification leading to a high demand, high wage career; income eligibility requirements.

For more information about Panther Youth Partners, contact Program Coordinator Kamille Manalo at 863-784-7054 or email manalok@southflorida.edu.

For more information on Ridge Area Arc, call 863-452-1295 or visit ridgeareaarc.org.

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