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Teens get job training through coalition for burned churches
Saundra Wright, front, 16, a rising junior at Gainesville High School types up labels on the computer while sister Danika Wright, 17, a rising senior at Gainesville, sends a fax at the National Coalition for Burned Churches on College Avenue in Gainesville Friday. These summer jobs are a first for the two sisters. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Gainesville High School student Danika Wright has never had a job, so learning the ins and outs of the working world this summer has been a real wake-up call.

The 17-year-old rolls out of bed every weekday morning to work for the National Coalition for Burned Churches in Gainesville.

"It really taught me a lot," Danika Wright said. "Waking up to come to work, that was kind of a challenge at first, but I got the hang of it after a while."

Through a partnership with the Georgia Teen Work program — an initiative that pairs Georgia youth with job opportunities during the summer — NCBC took on three Gainesville High students as
summer employees.

"We wanted to make sure we were doing all that we could do to promote summer work opportunities for young people," said Rose Johnson-Mackey, NCBC executive director. "We know that there are a lot of young people out there looking for work."

The students — Danika Wright, Saundra Wright, 16, and Monique Burton, 16 — performed research, planned events and learned about media coordination related to NCBC’s goal of providing information and support to congregations and communities affected by church burning.

"The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s kind of a big deal, that people actually do burn churches," said Saundra Wright, who is Danika Wright’s sister.

Like her sister, Saundra Wright said getting moving in the mornings was difficult, especially when she had to juggle both work and cheerleading responsibilities.

"It was kind of hard because I would come in tired," she said. "But then I knew that I would have to go to sleep early."

She hopes to become an ultrasound technician in the future, and she said this summer experience will get her started in that direction.

"It will be a good reference to put down on a job application," she said. "And it has taught me how to use a computer more because we’re on the computer researching a lot."

Saundra Wright researched churches and contacted fire departments to build a picture of church burning and bombing incidents across the nation.

Her sister was in charge of planning events and putting together the information Johnson-Mackey could take to conventions in Atlanta.

"I just personally think any job gets you ready for anything," Danika Wright said. "Even if you work at a restaurant, that just prepares you for the work world when you get older."

Johnson-Mackey said the students have learned valuable job skills, from basic computer processes and office work to the more complicated art of research.

"I think that all businesses, whether they’re nonprofits, small businesses or corporations, all of us have to begin to do more to look at ways that we can begin to help solve this youth unemployment problem," Johnson-Mackey said. "We just want to do our part."