Students across the state are readjusting their sleep schedules as they head back to school after summer vacation. But not all kids spent the past few months sleeping in.

One Savannah program aimed to teach teenagers work skills while making the city safer.


Keynote speakers stood on a spotlit stage decorated in green and orange balloons as the crowd cheered the latest graduates of the Savannah Pre-Apprentice Program.


It was a big day for participants and coordinators, like Chatham County Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Colbert.

“Forgive me because I get emotional when I think about the potential that is not met because the village doesn’t come together to support our young people,” she said to the audience.


The program matches 14-17 year olds with city and county offices and private businesses for seven week paid apprenticeships.

Program Coordinator Ramona Famble said, “This is the largest group that we have managed, over the last few years our numbers ranged between 40 to 60. This year at the onset of the program we were right around 300.”

That’s a 400 percent jump in participation, and they did it with a single change. They opened the process to all 14 to 17 year olds in Chatham County. Last year, students had to be referred by outside agencies.

The change came after Savannah saw a 70 percent spike in homicides last year. It was the cities highest murder rate since 1991.

Crime typically spikes during the summer. The Pre-Apprentice Program aims to keep kids out of trouble.  

Anthony Taylor spent the summer working at Thunderbolt Marina. He did electrical work, painted and rigged massive yachts. It’s not exactly a walk in the park.

“It’s worth it, but it’s not easy,” Taylor explained. “This job right here can actually teach me how the real world’s going to work.  Like, nothing is handed to you. Life’s not easy at all. It teaches you responsibility like come to work on time, give 100 percent."

Taylor said if he wasn’t working at the marina he’d probably get into trouble this summer.

“You know you ain’t in school so you know kids get around their friends, and wanna be doing some dumb stuff, get in trouble but no, I got to come here and get paid.”

It’s a win-win. City officials say they’ve saved more than $10,000 by hiring students. Taylor’s supervisor, Tracy Thompson-Lee, also saved money. But, she said there’s a long-term payout too.

“When we look to hire people we really want individuals to have that marine experience and the reality is that not all the time are you going to get that,” she said. “The training that the supervisors here are able to give the pre-apprentice that come through, it also helps to cultivate that next generation."

Anthony Taylor dreams of one day owning his own electrical shop. He hopes this experience gets him one step closer.

Anthony Taylor was awarded a Youth Leadership Award at the 2016 pre-apprentice graduation ceremony.