On July 27, four teenage boys in LaGrange, Georgia, went job-hunting in an effort to avoid joining a gang.
They approached Zsa Zsa Heard, head of the LaGrange Housing Authority, and asked her for a job, reports WXIA. The boys, all aged 13 and 14, told her that they were approached by gangs “all the time,” and she hired them on the spot.
She posted about it on Facebook, saying the jobs were intended to “empower the young men,” whose names are Dylik, Dennis, Deion and Jalen. The post has now been shared more than 300 times.
Heard said the four boys live on property operated by the Housing Authority, and that they had previously approached her for work. During Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in 2015, she put them to work with a maintenance worker, who taught them some carpentry skills.
Until now, she did not realize why they were trying to get hired.
Currently, the young teens are working in the community garden and chicken coop, and helping deliver community mail. They have each been give a prepaid card, which is credited with payment for their labor.
"If they feel that they’re valuable, and if we show them how important they are, then we don’t risk losing them,” Heard told WXIA.
The Housing Authority of the City of LaGrange, a municipal nonprofit corporation, was established in 1953 to provide “decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities,” according to the government agency’s website.
“We are dedicated to provide a premier safe, secure, and diverse community where families are encouraged to set life goals through education, gainful employment, and healthy life styles,” the site explains. The Housing Authority manages 420 public housing units, ranging from one to four bedrooms.
As for the young workers, they return to school on August 10, but Heard says they will continue to have work in the future, as long as they want it.