FORT RUCKER Ala. -- While most teenagers opted to spend time with Families or friends during the past three months, 11 teenagers here selected a path that taught them important life skills.

Jan. 16, Child and Youth School Services staff, parents and mentors honored them for their efforts at the CYSS building.

The teens recently completed the 12-week HIRED! program's first term. The program places youth ages 15-18 in Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation jobs, allowing them to explore possible career opportunities, said Sasha LaForge, CYSS workforce preparation specialist.

During the term, the teenagers committed to at least 15 hours of work per week plus attended one financial, three workforce preparation and two postsecondary workshops. The workshops taught them how to create budgets, balance job responsibilities and helped them explore possible careers, CYSS officials said.

"Students graduating from high school are facing profound social, technological and economic challenges," CYSS Facility Director Eugene Johnson said at the ceremony. "The goal of the HIRED! apprentice program is to help teens develop the necessary confidence and employer-valued abilities to succeed in today's competitive job market."

LaForge said the youth learned many life skills during the process.

"They realize commitment is very important. They had other activities going on. It taught them commitment and responsibility," she said.

Teenagers who completed the program echoed LaForge's sentiments.

"It was a good experience. I learned about responsibility and doing stuff right now and not later," Reaiah Tyson, daughter of Army Reservist Spc. LaCresha Tyson, said. Tyson worked as an assistant for Sheila Shepard, School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills instructional program specialist.

Despite wanting to become a neurologist, Tyson said the job prepared her for college and a career by becoming accustomed to filling out applications, providing a rAfAsumAfA boost and teaching her how to work with others.

Patrick Johnson, son of Maj. Robert Bailey and Capt. Elizabeth Johnson-Bailey, said the HIRED! program provided him a career focus. Johnson, who worked with the Auto Craft Center, aspires to become either an automobile mechanic or a police officer.

Johnson-Bailey said she saw her son mature significantly through the program.

"You can see the maturity. He learned about a budget," she said. "Before, he wasn't as focused on what he wanted to do."

Program mentors who guided the youth believe HIRED! is a worthwhile teen program.

"It is definitely a great program. Sometimes as adults, we forget they need mentoring," Shepard said, noting she has requested two assistants for the next HIRED! term. "They learn the ins-and-outs of being responsible. They learn life is not easy."

Preliminary work for the next term begins in February, LaForge said. For more information or to sign up, call 255-2246.