The Takoma Park Youth Collaborative just completed the “Who Wants to Work Challenge” an employment readiness training for young people ages 16 to 19. From March 4 to April 8, a total of thirty local youth participated in at least one of six sessions, with an average of 14 at each session. Seven completed the program and earned referrals for employment. Almost all the youth were participants in Making a New United People (MANUP) or Identity.
The program was a one of a kind collaborative effort with different youth organizations and local colleges taking the lead in different sessions. Both Montgomery College and students from Washington Adventist University provided constant support throughout the training. Montgomery College led a session on resume writing, Gandhi Brigade led a session on online job searching and cover letter writing. Washington Adventist University business school students in their “Enactus” program led a session on interviewing and arranged for mock interviews. Identity planned and facilitated a session on work place etiquette and elevator speeches. MANUP, facilitated and acted as co-leader on almost all the sessions. CHEER provided staff and logistical support and brought 11 adult volunteers from the community to provide direct mentoring on specific activities and several who described and answered questions about their personal career paths.
Feedback from the youth was very positive. Participants said they learned a lot, met a lot of people. The mock interviews were particularly useful. And on top of all of that it was fun. They wanted it to be longer and take on some additional topics and engage more youth. This is the kind of opportunity they are looking for and they asked that we do this again. We had support from 11 community volunteers, who provided mentorship and instruction for the youth. We had organizational support from local youth development organizations such as MANUP, Gandhi Brigade, and Identity, and also from local colleges, such as the Enactus students from the School of Business at Washington Adventist University, and instructors from Montgomery College.
This training and its outcomes would have been beyond the capacity of any of our organizations working individually, but working together we have done something really significant. The success of this pilot is the result of a close partnership between CHEER and Brandon Johns, the Executive Director of MANUP, who serves as the Coordinator of the Youth Collaborative, and the many community members and organizations that stepped forward to make it happen.