The Knights of Columbus Hall was filled with technology during the Youth Leadership Academy 2019 Summer Tec Fest on Thursday, as youth and young adults learned more about technology and how it fits in their future careers and daily lives.
"We're really hoping that this is going to help prepare kids for employment," said Kim Buckman, director of support with County Connections.
Buckman joined members of Learning Opportunities/Quality Works Inc. (LOQW) and Macon County Senate Bill 40 for the ninth event geared toward providing education about technology's various uses to young people transitioning from school to their careers. Buckman said the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities set up the Empowering through Employment Initiative in 2016, and established a Technology First Initiative for 2019. The latest academy attracted participants from counties including Marion, Monroe, Lewis and Lincoln, who completed online assessments and created resumes as they learned about the growing prevalence of technology in the workplace and beyond.
Event presenters included staff members from NEILS and RAIL, representing Missouri Assistive Technology; Truman State University; the Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities and Jessica Keenoy and Nicholas Holz, training associates with the Institute for Community Inclusion.
Keenoy and Holz talked about how technology can help with access to a job and independence in the workplace. They also addressed topics like social media footprints and how to gain access to useful technologies. They noticed how academy participants enjoyed the activities and were enthusiastic to meet one another while they sharpened their networking skills.
"I love the activities," Keenoy said. "We have some really good ones."
"All the kids have been great — interacting, participating and sharing their stories," Holz said.
Rhian Beldon, employment consultant with LOQW, said the academy presented various examples of technology to show how it can be fun, efficient and supportive in the workplace and other aspects of daily life.
"Everywhere we go, everything people use, is technology-based and makes our lives easier," Beldon said. During the academy, she said youth learned that technology can be fun while it helps them with future successes.
"A lot of these kids today — in the next couple years, they might have some new apps for us," she said.
Travis and Lera, graduates from Troy Buchanan High School, enjoyed the chance to create new apps by drawing colorful icons on blank keyboards. Lera's app ideas included a key with a heart, a St. Louis Blues logo, a dollar symbol and animals. She described the activity as "really fun and enjoyable," and she plans to pursue a job as a day care provider.
Across the table, Travis' keys were decorated with a dollar symbol, food, and logos for the St. Louis Cardinals and the 99.1 Joy Christian radio station. His favorite part of the academy was the opportunity to meet new people. Travis said he gained experience with various tasks working at Mercy Hospital in Troy, and he shared his future plans.
"I'm hoping to find a job and get out on my own," Travis said.
For more information about the Youth Leadership Academies and how technology is becoming more crucial in career fields, visit www.mccddc.com or call 573-735-4282.