Douglass senior will graduate with two years of work experience behind him

For the past two years, Douglass High School Jaymond Shabaka thrived.

As part of United Veterans Home Loans‘ Flourish Initiative, Jaymond kept up with his schoolwork while working maintenance at Veterans United, watering the mortgage company’s many factories, moving and assembling chairs and other furniture, and doing everything what needed to be done.

“Jay made it easy for us,” said his supervisor, Joe Herzog, using his nickname.

He’s only been late for work a few times, Herzog said.

“He never said ‘no’ to a job,” Herzog said, adding that Jaymond had tackled one of the toughest jobs of installing or removing plexiglass.

“I’m impressed with him as an individual,” Herzog said.

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Jaymond, 18, had previously attended Battle High School but discovered Flourish when he came to Douglass, where a teacher relentlessly pushed him to participate, he said.

“It was a culture shock,” Jaymond said of the Veterans United program. “It’s like a community. It’s really different from my previous experience in the job market.”

He hated working in fast food, he said.

He also participated in a professional development summer program for Flourish interns. It included plenty of speakers, resume writing instructions, lessons on time management and prioritization, and even dinner and lunch etiquette.

“It really changed my mindset,” Jaymond said. “I think that really rubbed off on me.”

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His grandmother raised him, he says. His parents were not part of his life, he says.

“I’ve lived with my grandmother since I was about a year old,” Jaymond said. “I think in all honesty she made me the person I am today.”

He is looking forward to graduate May 20.

“I’m very excited,” he said.

His next step is to work as an apprentice electrician through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Jefferson City, he said.

“It’s easy money and there will always be demand,” Jaymond said.

CoMo Rising Stars is a Tribune series featuring high school students named by Columbia’s principal before graduation. The series highlights students with a particular talent, achievement, or passion for helping others.

Roger McKinney is the Tribune’s educational reporter. You can reach him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He’s on Twitter at @rmckinney9.

Maria D. Ervin