Ja-Ontay and Jessica O'Bryant

Mansfield Senior High School student Ja'Ontay O'Bryant, seen here with his mom, Jessica O'Bryant, is ready for a second summer of work through a program for youth with Richland County Job & Family Services.

MANSFIELD -- Ja'Ontay O'Bryant picked off seven passes for Mansfield Senior's football team last fall, earning All-Ohio honors as a sophomore cornerback.

He is now ready for a second summer of picking -- and pulling -- weeds at NECIC's Urban Farm on Bowman Street, part of the summer youth employment program funded by Richland County Job & Family Services.

The 16-year-old Bryant, who will be a junior for the Tygers this fall, is one of 125 local youngsters that Teresa Alt, director of Richland County Youth and Family Council, hopes will participate in the program.

"Richland County JFS has provided Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds to the council to have a summer employment program," Alt said.

Young people ages 14 to 18 can apply to work 20 hours per work at $13 for 10 weeks this summer, earning a potential $2,600 for their efforts. Transportation will be provided, if needed, according to Alt.

Learn more about the program by clicking here.

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"Some worksites are with the City of Mansfield, summer camps, Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Friendly House's Happy Camp, office/administrative work and some restaurant work," Alt said.

O'Bryant, who also plays basketball and runs track at Mansfield Senior, participated in the program last year and is looking forward to a second summer at the Urban Farm.

A year ago was his first experience working with the dirt.

"We were planting stuff. We were pulling weeds. And we were walking around cleaning up the place," O'Bryant said.

His mom, Jessica, was surprised when she heard Ja'Ontay chose to work on the farm.

"I though, 'Oh, this is not my child,'" she said with a laugh. "I thought he would help the Y or a summer camp, because he is just a kid. But that's what he decided to do."

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O'Bryant, who works during the day, said the transportation service made a difference for her son.

"I think it's a good program for kids. They learn a work ethic. He did pretty good last year of being on time. It teaches him time management because he is an athlete so he had to go to work and to practice," Jessica said.

"It still seems like a lot of parents or guardians really don't know anything about it. We figured a lot of kids would want to work," she said.

O'Bryant, whose dream is to play college football, said he enjoyed meeting people on the farm and even working outside in the summer heat.

What would he say to local young people considering the program?

"It will be a lot of fun," he said.

Alt said having a summer job is linked to an increase in the chances of youth graduating from high school and reducing the risk for criminal activity and the juvenile justice system.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, for every year a person works in their teens, their income rises 14 to 16 percent in their 20s.

"When teens choose to have a job, employment teaches responsibility and good work habits, improves time management and organizational skills and helps them save money," Alt said.

Families interested must complete the application, signed by the youth applicant and a parent/guardian if the youth is a minor. They must also provide copies of Social Security cards for all members of the household; a birth certificate for the youth applicant and a parent/guardian; and verification of income for the past 30 days (paystubs, Social Security award letter, payroll report, etc.) for all working adults in the household.

Completed applications and documents can be dropped off at OhioMeansJobs Richland, 183 Park Avenue East, Mansfield, Ohio (ATTN: Teresa Alt) or e-mailed to OMJ-Richland@jfs.ohio.gov.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"