Duval County

‘What’s your next?’: Jacksonville teenagers build skills, self-awareness aboard USS Orleck

It’s all hands on deck as the Jacksonville Naval Museum gears up to officially open its doors to the public.

Action News Jax was on the USS Orleck, the museum’s centerpiece, as she docked along the Northbank Riverwalk in March.

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Now, volunteers work each and every day to get the vessel back in ship-shape.

The youngest group to volunteer so far: teenagers with the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida.

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Through a six-week summer apprenticeship program, the organization has teamed up with the Jacksonville Naval Museum.

Kylah M., 16, has been hard-at-work aboard the USS Orleck.

“We’ve been sweeping, painting, wiping and maintaining the ship,” Kylah said.

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She’s shared that she’s interested in pursuing engineering or psychology.

“With this program, it helps you get ready for going into different work environments,” Kylah said.

The apprenticeship began on June 13, so there are two more weeks left. The group has been working Monday through Thursday each week.

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“Providing workforce development ensures they get the skills, the knowledge and the self-awareness that they need to build a valuable career,” said Daleneka Walker with the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida.

Action News Jax also spoke with Wyatt Parlette, who is the Vice President of Programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida

“An opportunity like being on the USS Orleck and getting to work here every day is a very unique experience,” Parlette said. “It’s all about giving them new experiences and getting them acclimated to the workforce.”

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The hard-working teenagers are getting a front row seat at what it takes to restore something of this scale, while learning about the story behind the ship.

Jim Webb is the Jacksonville Naval Museum’s Executive Director.

“The kids that came on for the last couple of weeks have been really helpful repainting, scraping and all the maintenance of making sure the inside looks as great as the outside,” Webb said.

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While the Jacksonville Naval Museum has been giving select tours, leaders shared they hope the museum will be officially open to the public by the end of the year.

Webb said the museum needs to train more people, so they’ll have the staff in place to keep up with the demand.

“I’ve been on the ship every day since she was brought to Jacksonville in March,” Webb said. “Every day I come on the ship, a smile breaks out on my face as I see how wonderful she is.”

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Here’s what Burdette Williams with Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida hopes to instill in each teenager: “‘What’s your next?’ Meaning that after high school, what are we doing? It means that we have to plan for success. If you don’t plan for success, you’ll fail. Always remember your next and work that process.”

To donate to the Jacksonville Naval Museum, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida or to register for the upcoming cohort of the program, CLICK HERE.

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