Project Purpose launches with a goal — and a result

Pat Donahue/Times-EnterpriseAlready outfitted with a hard hat for his new job at Evoqua, Isaac King signs his commitment to work there as part of Project Purpose on Wednesday morning.

THOMASVILLE — Working with his father at night helped Isaac King find a purpose — now potentially a career.

King, a graduate of Bishop Hall Charter School, became the first graduate of Project Purpose, a collaborative effort between Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce, Evoqua Water Technologies, the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority, Thomas County Central High School, Thomasville High School, the City of Thomasville and Southern Regional Technical College.

“It is exciting to see Project Purpose be successful,” said Roscoe Smith, Evoqua plant manager.

The initiative is directed at capturing high school seniors who had no direct path after graduation, said Andrea Collins, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. 

“We hear workforce, workforce, workforce,” said Shelley Zorn, executive director of the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority.

Zorn attended a meeting of the Georgia Economic Developers Association and heard about a similar program in Douglas County, just west of Atlanta. When she came back, the discussion about industry tours for students in need of a career path was underway.

“Andrea took off and ran with it,” she said. “They have been the ones to completely organize it.”

Ten students signed up for a two-week boot camp, after taking a tour of Evoqua. The company has offered a position to King, and he signed the commitment letter Wednesday morning at the Chamber of Commerce office.

“This a great step and a big honor for us to be part of this,” said Dennis Lee, vice president of economic development at Southern Regional Technical College. "I hope today is the first of many we will all participate in. We want to continue to participate in this important initiative.”

Workforce development, Lee added, is what the technical college does.

“it is one of the main cogs in our mission statement,” he said. “It is important for the growth and economic growth of Thomasville and Thomas County.”

State Rep. Darlene Taylor praised the efforts of the organizations that joined forces for Project Purpose.

“This is what makes Thomasville Thomasville,” she said. “We have talked about for years we’re losing our best and our brightest. No, we’re not. We’re keeping them. This is what we need to be doing. “

Chris Huckans, principal at Bishop Hall, said King struggled with relating how his education would help him down the road. But King got involved in the CTAE programs and saw how the time he spent at night with his dad in their shop could become a career. From there, his work ethic began to show, Huckans said.

“You’re going to get one of the hardest-working young men you’re going to find," Huckans told Evoqua officials.

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