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ECHS business student discovers passion for helping others
Ashely Hilliard
Ashley Hilliard is earing work-based learning credit at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. - photo by Photo provided

 Although senior Ashley Hilliard will graduate from Effingham County High School this spring with a degree that includes a Business seal, she’s still exploring her future career options.

Her high school’s Work-Based Learning Program is one of the tools this dedicated teen is using to help her decide how her gifts and talents can best be used.

While the WBL Program allows Hilliard to work with a local business and get paid for her time while also earning high school credits, she chose instead to be a volunteer intern with Effingham County’s Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization. Although she doesn’t earn a penny for the 25-plus hours per week she works at the Habitat ReStore in Rincon, Hilliard said she enjoys her job, is gaining valuable experience and has discovered a passion for helping people.

“The most important thing I have learned working for Habitat is how important it is to help others in need,” explained Hilliard. “When I first started getting involved with Habitat, I began to realize how many people spend time out of their lives helping others, and I was not entirely aware of this before.”

Hilliard said she often wondered why so many people volunteer so much of their time when they get nothing out of it in return.

“Now I see that when you put your time and effort into helping people in need, you do get something back, the greatest reward ever, the one that only you know or feel,” said Hilliard. “It’s the reward of just knowing that you did something great for someone else, you made a difference in the world, and this makes you feel better as a person.”

Prior to beginning her internship with Habitat, Hilliard knew very little about the non-profit organization but had shopped for paint in the Habitat ReStore. And other than working as a waitress for a short time, her work experience was limited to babysitting for relatives. As she was considering the Work-Based Learning Program and where she wanted to work, the ReStore’s location on Highway 21 in Rincon caught Hilliard’s attention.

“I would drive by the ReStore every day going to and from school,” explained Hilliard. “It looked like an interesting place to work.”

As an administrative clerk, Hilliard’s job utilizes the computer and desktop publishing skills she’s acquired from four years of business and graphic arts classes as well as participating in her school’s FBLA program. One of her first assignments was to help promote the recent fundraiser, “Pigging Out for Habitat.” According to her supervisor, George Groce, Hilliard did a great job.

“Ashley is very special to Habitat,” stated Groce. “She not only works her required hours for school, but she comes in on Saturdays and she has even brought her friends with her.”

In addition to helping with administrative duties, Hilliard also assists customers in the ReStore and shares information about how a person can qualify for a Habitat home. She will experience her first “Dedication and Blessing” for the McHenry family’s home this weekend in Guyton. Hilliard helped create the invitations and the program for the ceremony.

One of the most challenging tasks the high school senior has been given was to initiate the use of a new online volunteer scheduling program called “Volunteer Up.” Individuals and groups who want to volunteer to help build a home can now go online to, click on the “Volunteer” link and sign up electronically.

Hilliard recently completed the training that taught her how to set up and use the new program and she believes that once people become aware that they can sign up online, the process for scheduling volunteer workers will become easier for the Habitat staff.

Students enrolled in the work-based learning program are required to work the same number of hours that they would be in school, plus they must complete assignments pertaining to their job experience. Hilliard has already written an essay on job safety and will be required to complete a research project based on a career she’s interested in pursuing as well as a tri-fold display project highlighting her WBL job.

According to her WBL coordinator, Vivan Lawson,  Hilliard is using her business skills, customer service skills, computer skills, and desktop publishing skills on her job and she’s gaining valuable experience that will benefit her as she pursues a career in business.

High school students that are interested in participating in the work-based learning program should see Lawson at ECHS or Becky Truluck at SEHS.