MANATEE -- From helping people board the Orange Blossom Express to making sure kids don't get too close to wildlife at the refuge, Jimmy Seltzer has become a part of the Mixon Fruit Farms family.
Seltzer, one of four students in Replay Outreach's pilot job shadowing program, wasn't used to being part of a small business family.
He spent eight weeks building his character, learning workplace skills and developing relationships with mentors as part of Replay Outreach. Seltzer underwent his training in the Pittsburgh Pirates' Pirate City room, but future Replay Outreach students will be able to use Replay Outreach's own training center.
An $18,000 grant from the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Foundation and a $75,000 grant from the Manatee County Children's Services Advisory Board helped complete the new training center. With the funds, Replay Outreach was able to add computers, chairs and desks to help at-risk teens learn about resume development and other vocational knowledge.
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At the end of the eight training weeks, Seltzer began a four-week job shadow program at Mixon Fruit Farms. Larry Rose, founder of Replay Outreach and president of the board of directors, said Mixon is exactly the type of business he hoped to pair with.
"I wanted to get business owners who believe in these kids," Rose said. Replay Outreach hopes to lead at-risk teens into the workforce and out of the streets, while reducing the youth recidivism rate for getting into trouble. Janet Mixon owns the fruit farm with her husband, Dean, and wanted
to make a difference in Manatee County's youth community.
"I have a passion for kids and education and providing opportunities," Janet Mixon said. She has a doctorate degree in child development, was a teacher and was happy to have Seltzer come work for her instead of the alternative.
For something different
"I was going to a school called Horizon Academy and it's for troubled kids who have a past," Seltzer said. "And they came and asked if we were interested in turning our lives around and give it a shot. I took interest in it and I liked it."
Seltzer was attending Horizons Academy when he was involved in an incident and was expelled from the alternative school. He had signed up for the Replay Outreach program a few days before he was expelled.
"Normally we would lose a child at this point and we didn't lose Jimmy," Mixon said. Seltzer is continuing his education through PLATO, Florida's choice for a virtual academy. After the four weeks of job shadowing concluded, Seltzer continues to volunteer at Mixon and said he's able to apply what he has learned to other areas of his life.
Learning life skills
"I've learned responsibility since I've been here," Seltzer said. "Usually I'd be short-minded; I'd think about something and not do it. Then I realized everything has to be learned and you can't depend on someone else to do it." The skills apply at home, too, when Seltzer helps take care of his two younger brothers and younger sister.
Mixon hopes Seltzer will continue to volunteer at the farm and eventually work for her. She hopes to soon teach him the cash register and is excited that Seltzer will soon turn 18, because he'll be able to learn how to use equipment and tackle tasks like making ice cream cones for customers. And when the next Replay Outreach group begins job shadowing, Mixon said she hopes Seltzer can provide some of the training.
The Replay Outreach program currently is only for male students, Rose said, but he hopes to open the organization to girls sometime over the next year.
Mixon Fruit Farms and the Manatee County Neighborhood Services Department were the first two organizations to offer job shadowing, but Rose said partnerships with Manatee Memorial Hospital, two veterinarians offices, Bayside Community Church and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the works.
Any other businesses interested in partnering with Replay Outreach can visit replayoutreach.org or contact Rose at 941-548-7639.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.