After graduating from the Steps 2 Success (S2S) program on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus, DeKalb resident Kashia Benoman was hired by the Kemper County Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office. Benoman said she would not have gotten the job had it not been for the S2S program.

September 24, 2020

Kemper County Tax Assessor/Collector Deputy Clerk Kashia Benoman, 23, credits the Steps 2 Success (S2S) program on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus with providing her the skills and opportunity to land a good job in her hometown of DeKalb.

“Things would have been a lot different for me had I not gone through the Steps 2 Success program,” Benoman said.

Established initially as a pilot program in 2016, the S2S program is funded through the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act in partnership with the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District. Kemper County residents ages 16-24 who are not enrolled in school are eligible to apply for program, which offers paid work experience and training in areas such as work ethics, leadership and literacy.

S2S participants must complete a career readiness certification, or WorkKeys, in which they are educated on topics such as communication, attitude and organization. Those enrolled in the program also work 320 hours during a paid internship that pays $8 an hour.

“The internships are a great opportunity for students to get valuable work experience while earning money at the same time,” EMCC Workforce Community Outreach Program Director Sha’Carla Petty said.

Kemper County supports the program and many of the internships are at county government offices or with the Kemper County School District.

Benoman enrolled in the S2S program in 2018 and served her eight-week internship in the office of Kemper County Administrator Yolanda Cook, where she performed secretarial duties.

“After I finished my internship, I was hired fulltime to work across the hall in Tax Assessor/Collector Joycelyn Robertson’s office,” Benoman said. “I love the work, my boss and my co-workers. It has been great.”

Prior to landing her current job, Benoman struggled to find fulfilling work. After graduating from Kemper County High School in 2015, she enrolled in EMCC’S Certified Nursing Assistant program, which she completed later that same year.

“I didn’t do that work for very long before I realized it just wasn’t for me,” Benoman said.

A succession of jobs, such as cashier, custodian and hostess, followed.

In 2016, Benoman’s daughter, Madison, who is 4 now, was born. By 2018 Benoman knew she needed to find stable employment to provide for her daughter. She heard about the S2S program and decided to give it a try.

“I am so grateful for the program because I would not be where I am today without it,” Benoman said. “I have encouraged a lot of people my age and younger to enroll in Steps 2 Success.”

While some students, like Benoman, go to work after completing the program, others enroll in workforce services, career technical or academic training programs at EMCC.

Past S2S graduates include both high school graduates and those who entered the program without a high school diploma, but later earned one through EMCC’s Adult Education program. Some EMCC graduates in need of work experience have gone through the S2S program, as have a couple of people who had already earned a bachelor’s degree.

EMCC S2S clerical support worker Arianna Love is a 2017 graduate of the program.

“I highly recommend Steps 2 Success,” Love said. “I not only gained valuable work experience, but the program helped give me direction in life and provided me with the skills needed to work in a professional environment.”

Applications for the S2S program are being accepted now. For more information about the application process, email Petty at swhite@eastms.edu or Love at alove@eastms.edu.