FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 21, 2013) -- Growing up is a part of life and gaining independence is part of that process, and the 2013 Youth Job and College Fair helped teens to take that first step into the "real world."

Fort Rucker's EDGE and HIRED! programs held their annual Youth College and Job Fair March 16 with vendors from different colleges and local businesses to cater to the installation and surrounding communities youth, according to Denise Honeycutt, EDGE and HIRED! program manager.

"We wanted to have a central location that our teens could come to and look for jobs, find out about colleges and see what they all have to offer," she said. "Summer is coming up and a lot of these teens are looking for summer jobs, and a lot of them are also graduating soon, so it just made sense to put the college and job fair together."

The different kinds of jobs that were available at the fair ranged from supermarkets, movie theaters and retail stores.

Shannon Lynch, military Family member who recently turned 16, visited the fair with her mother, Darcy, in hopes of finding a job.

"I don't do anything really over the summer, so I'm looking for something that can get me a little bit of money while occupying my time," she said. "I was able to see a couple of opportunities to get a job, and talk to some people to get the experience and see what it's really like.

"This gives me the opportunity to get a job and I think it will help me be better prepared later in life," Shannon added.

Darcy agreed.

"I think it's good for her to gain some independence and have her own money to spend," she said. "She just got her driver's license, so getting a job will help her get out there and become an independent youth."

Independent youths are exactly what Honeycutt is hoping to cultivate through events like the college and job fair.

"It gives [teens] a sense of pride, and I think it's important to start now and learn what it's like to hold a job because it gets them ready for the real world," she said. "That's also the purpose of the EDGE and HIRED! programs."

HIRED! is a Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation program that offers teens between the ages of 15 and 18 the opportunity to work 12 weeks at any DFMWR facility of their choice, said the program manager. It's a great opportunity for teens because for those that can't find jobs, it's a great way for them to get real-world experience and get some on-the-job training, she added.

"We tried to get businesses that would hire teens that were 16 and older, and that's why we even had our HIRED! program there," said Honeycutt.

Jobs weren't the only thing that students were able to scope out during the fair, however. They had the opportunity to talk with representatives from colleges like Baker Online, Troy University, Enterprise, Ozark Community College and Auburn University.

Jennifer Owens, military Family member and high school student getting ready to graduate, said that the fair was able to give her some insight into where she wants to continue her education after high school.

"I think this was great because I was actually able to talk to some people about what their schools have to offer, and it just makes the whole college application process easier," she said. "It's hard enough trying to figure out where you want to go to school, but to have people help you and show you what you need to do is a huge help."