Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:48 PM EDT
Jeff Tollefson is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for his innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.
A common theme for teens growing up in low-income environments is the absence of an expectation for a more positive future. A sense of hopelessness can easily set in, leading otherwise promising youth to give up and far too often, drop out. Worse yet, they turn to unhealthy behaviors and activity, such as gang violence that challenges the safety of so many of our urban neighborhoods.
But what if these teens could envision a brighter future for themselves? What if they could see and experience what a professional career feels like, what it could afford them, and begin to see the relevance of education as a key to attaining high-paying jobs, while still in high school? What positive change could we catalyze?
At Genesys Works, we’ve seen what can happen – and it’s transformational. By providing low-income youth with the guidance, tools, resources, and economic opportunities that help them see a path out of poverty and into a world of financial stability and self-sufficiency, we can begin to replace feelings of hopelessness with a vision for a brighter future.
Our program model is simple, yet life-changing. In the summer before their senior year of high school, students undergo an intensive eight-week technical and professional skills “boot camp” where they learn and develop the skills needed to succeed in the next phase of our program – a meaningful year-long paid internship. Students then work nearly 1000 hours during their senior year as business-card-carrying young professionals at one of our corporate partners, supported and guided by caring mentors and supervisors. Succeeding in a professional job helps students see that there is a place for them in the corporate world, something they might not have thought possible until experiencing it for themselves. Many choose to further their education beyond high school as a result.
Of the 389 students that were trained and placed into meaningful internships in our first five years operating in the Twin Cities, all have graduated from high school with 97% enrolling in college. More importantly, 81% have either now graduated (we celebrated our first college graduates in June) or are still enrolled and on track to graduate. Given that our students come from low-income backgrounds with 96% students of color, we are particularly proud of these young men and women who are truly beating the odds, as the bachelor’s degree attainment rate is less than 10% nationally for the demographic we serve. This is real impact. This is real change. This is what drives us to do more.
The impact on individual student lives is clear. But what may be less obvious is the impact we can have on the broader communities we serve. Take, for example, the growing skills gap we face here in Minnesota. With highly skilled baby boomers leaving the workforce en masse over the next decade, we are faced with a next generation of workers that is far more diverse, and less prepared, than ever before. Schools and companies alike need to intervene to ensure that our youth develop the advanced skills needed to be successful in the modern workplace. Genesys Works serves as a bridge connecting students with opportunities, businesses with technology-proficient workers, and schools with a program providing relevant, real-world educational opportunities for urban teens.
By connecting youth with the right opportunities and support structures at the right time, we can begin to close the educational achievement and economic opportunity gaps that fragment so many segments of our population, and in doing so, make our communities a better place to live and work for all.
Jeff Tollefson serves as Executive Director of Genesys Works – Twin Cities, a non-profit organization helping economically disadvantaged high school students to enter and thrive in the economic mainstream by providing them the knowledge and work experience required to succeed as professionals.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM EDT
John Hogan is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for his innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.
This is the story of the unlikely merging of a Presidential call to action and the musings of a grumpy old man.
United We Serve, President Obama’s nationwide service initiative, is built on the belief that ordinary people can come together to achieve extraordinary things when given the proper tools. One of the major initiatives to come out of the President’s call was the White House Council on Community Solutions. Launched by executive order in December 2010, this team identified and researched a critical challenge facing our nation: the crisis of youth unemployment. There are over 6.2 million Opportunity Youth (ages 16-24 and not working or in school). The annual opportunity cost to the United States is a staggering $250 billion, which includes lost revenue, earnings, and increased social services.
In 18 months, the White House Council for Community Solutions (WHCCS) established the framework that would become Youth Jobs+. They published several important “how to” guides for businesses to engage with youth and the community. The final report by the Council was delivered to the President in June 2012 with several calls to action. The Aspen Institute answered the call by creating the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund.
While all of this was happening, I was answering some calls myself. I retired from my first career and was pursuing an MBA when I began researching youth employment. At first, it was nothing more than a grumpy inquiry, “Why aren’t these kids working like they used to?” The question turned to research, and the research to a business plan, and the business plan to a social enterprise: TeenForce. Launched in 2010, TeenForce is applying the successful principles of the staffing industry to solve the youth employment crisis.
TeenForce has demonstrated that a private-sector approach can address the crisis. TeenForce has employed over 230 youth in the last two years with 50 private sector employers including El Camino Hospital, RFI Communications & Security Systems, Goodwill, and Peet’s Coffee & Tea. The youth in this program have worked 70,269 hours and earned $712,349.
The market-based approach has also proven more cost-effective for the community. At a net cost of just $1.92 per youth hour worked, Teenforce is a bargain compared to government managed youth jobs programs, which cost $14 to $20 per hour. We are delivering a meaningful social benefit without any new government funding because our youth workers meet the legitimate needs of businesses.
About 10 months after our launch, I fielded a call from a potential employer. He asked, “Can you help me employ some foster youth? I have heard that they have a tough time.” Answering that call in 2011 cascaded quickly into a successful pilot project and the formation of the Foster Youth Employment Coalition. The FYEC then made another call: to the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. They answered in a big way, with a commitment to generate 100 jobs for foster youth in 2013. We are at 81 jobs now and on our way to meeting the goal.
We are just scratching the surface of what can be done when the private sector understands that social solutions can occur in the context of meeting their business needs. We seek to expand our call to the private sector through our involvement in the launch of Opportunity Youth Partnership project created through funding received from the Aspen Institute on Community Solutions. This is where our work intersects with the President’s call for action. We are excited to see where answering the next calls will lead us.
John Hogan is the founder and full-time volunteer CEO at TeenForce, a social enterprise dedicated to solving the youth employment crisis by meeting the hiring needs of business.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:40 PM EDT
Emmanuel Haynes is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change.
My name is Emmanuel RaShad Haynes and I am a 12th grade student in the St. Louis, Missouri Public School System. I am the fourth of five children born to Timothy and Renee Haynes. I am a determined young man who hopes to become an entrepreneur and establish myself as a productive United States citizen.
In an effort to reach my goal, I sought out summer employment opportunities. My school put out flyers that showed zip codes in which students could participate in these types of programs. I then followed the necessary steps and obtained the opportunity of my lifetime. When I was asked at the orientation which career choice I would like to experience, I selected funeral director. The case managers at Mers Goodwill were able to find me a placement at a funeral home and when the owner of Ronald Jones Funeral Chapel agreed to allow me to be the only intern I was elated. The biggest question I was asked was, are you afraid? My answer was no becauseI want to own a funeral home someday and have the opportunity to help families at one of the hardest and saddest times in their life. It meant really seeing how the drugs and senseless killings were hurting a lot of young men and women in my neighborhood and how it affected their families and friends. This experience allowed me the opportunity to on a daily basis put on a suit and tie and display professionalism in difficult and nerve racking situations.
Through this opportunity I was able to go behind the scenes and experience the business side of the funeral home. I learned why it is important to have life insurance and how death can and does leave a burden on your loved ones. It is also important to have a vision and a plan for your life, and I am now determined to beat the statistics usually associated with the other youth of inner city North St. Louis, and I will not go to prison. In May of 2014 I will graduate from Carnahan High School of the Future and then attend college with a major in Mortuary Science. It is also my dream to work closely with my father to establish a Youth Center at our Church to create programs that will assist with living skills as well as training that will help them to select college majors easily instead of spending too much time trying to decide. The Outta Love Christian Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO is my church home, where we live by the slogan, “Everything We do We Do it Outta Love, and Outta Love is How We Do”. I would like to thank everyone involved for this opportunity and I am going to help others in my future career, “Outta Love.” I will also like to thank St. Louis Youth Jobs and Mers goodwill case worker Ms. Shakema for all her hard work and determination to help my sister, myself, and others. President Obama, thank you for believing in youth like myself so that we do see change. As a Champion of Change I declare that I will continue to fight to assist other youth to make changes in their lives.
Emmanuel Haynes is a 12th grade student from St. Louis, MO and is currently attending Carnahan High School of The Future. He participated in the Mers Goodwill St. Louis Youth Jobs Program as a Funeral Director at Ronald Jones Funeral Chapels.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:26 PM EDT
Tiffani Cooper is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change.
My advice to the kids in my neighborhood? If you don’t want to be broke, stop buying Jordan’s and start buying education. And, if you set goals for yourself and you work hard to reach them, you might receive some unexpected rewards along the way.
One day, I want to own a hotel; this has been my dream for a long time. When I began my freshman year of high school at the National Academy Foundation School in the hospitality and tourism track, I set my sights on graduating within four years and doing the best I could. Nothing in my life so far has made me feel as proud as I did at my graduation ceremony, knowing I had accomplished my goal. And when it was announced that I was ranked sixth in my class, with a grade point average of 3.1, that was one of those unexpected rewards – icing on the cake.
Straight from high school, I jumped on the non-stop education train. In May I will graduate from Baltimore City Community College with an associate’s degree in general studies. Next fall, I plan to study hospitality management at Morgan State University.
I am extremely fortunate to live in Baltimore City, Maryland, where there is an incredible youth summer jobs program operated by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. The program – YouthWorks – places young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in six-week summer work experiences in a variety of industries throughout the city.
Every summer for the past six years, since I was 14 years old, I have held a job through YouthWorks. I have been a camp counselor and have worked for a government agency, foodservice company, hospital, and this summer, a college. I have learned how to conduct myself in the workplace – the importance of getting to work on time, communicating well with the people I work with and report to, and taking initiative.
Most importantly, I think, is that no matter where I go in life or what job I have, thanks to my YouthWorks experiences I will be able to adapt to new situations, interact with many different types of people, and see things from other people’s perspectives. I know that these skills will serve me well as I continue to work toward my goal of becoming a hotel owner.
They certainly helped me this summer in my position with YouthWorks at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). I worked in the facilities department and my supervisor, Margaret Newton, told me that I “stood out from the crowd.” I think my bright orange hair might have had something to do with that, but she said it was because of my work ethic. At the end of the summer, I was one of two YouthWorks participants hired to stay on at MICA full-time. I am proud that, again, I was able to accomplish something that I set out to do.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had through YouthWorks, and where these experiences have led me so far. The fact that they led me here to the White House as a Champion of Change is an unexpected reward for which I feel honored, to say the least. It might even be rainbow sprinkles on top of the icing on the cake.
Tiffani is a student at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) and works full-time at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) while attending school.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:20 PM EDT
Abraham Alvarez is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change.
My story begins in spring of 2012 when I was introduced to Mayor Edwin Lee’s Summer Jobs+ program through the Future Graduates Summer Tech Internship. I applied to be a Future Grads summer intern in 2012, but I was unable to work that year due to my commitment to my college prep classes I needed to take for High School at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. I still interviewed and met with Program leader SFPD Officer Raphael Rockwell and he remembered me from last year so when I re-applied for this summer I was lucky enough to land a summer job and to be placed at Media Relevance.
Media Relevance is a Tech startup company and my duties included customer development and understanding how both student and consumer behavior pertains to watching TV and video. In order to complete this task, I conducted interviews and created mock ups of my peers. My team was made up of three other high school interns, and we generated surveys and quizzes concerning the use of social networking and TV in order provide real world research which will translate into an “app” in the near future for Media Relevance. It was my first real-world work experience, in which I was in the office Tuesday through Thursday from 10am-5pm, and I had a great time.
Being raised by just my mother, I learned a lot about the importance of hard-work and that giving up should be the last option in all things. She also made sure that school always came first in my life. Because of the hardships and lessons I took from her, I am very appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with the Media Relevance (MR) team, and to know that my Mayor, Ed Lee, has made a pledge to help youth like me receive supportive jobs and training over the summer. The businesses that have taken us in are helping prepare others like me for what lies ahead by teaching us valuable skills and allowing us to earn some money, which I have saved most of for college.
From my time at MR I have found that I am most interested in the areas of health and how technology is making things better, specifically with eyesight care. I have worn glasses since I was three and I want to potentially become an eye doctor or surgeon or possibly even be the next creator of a product like Google Glass. I want to make a difference by helping others with disabilities like my own.
I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change for the Youth Jobs+ Program, representing San Francisco. This means a lot to me and encourages me to continue to do positive things and use my summers to do meaningful work. I plan to continue to learn from the experiences of others and develop technical skills so that when I graduate in a few years, I will know much of the advanced materials and be able to get a great job. I am already looking forward to next summer and spending this year talking about my experience with my family, classmates, and community hopefully they too will have an opportunity like this. In the meantime I am looking forward to the 10th grade, graduating with honors in a few years, and being the first in my family to attend and graduate from a university.
Abraham “Abe” Alvarez is 15 and a 10th grader attending Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, CA. He was selected to participate in the Summer Jobs+ Program through sfciti’s Future Graduates Tech Program in a paid internship with San Francisco based Tech startup Media Relevance. Sfciti is a non-profit organization created to leverage the power of the technology community around civic action in San Francisco.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 12:14 PM EDT
Deshawn Shepherd is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change.
One evening during the summer of 2013, I received a call from my aunt telling me that she had heard of a city funded program that provided jobs to youth. I saw this as an opportunity. I had no internet access at the time so I went to my school, Olive-Harvey College, to fill out the application. I filled out a lot of job applications last spring; so many that when I received a call in June stating that I had been selected to be a part of the One Summer Chicago PLUS program, I honestly had forgotten that I applied. The One Summer Chicago PLUS program offers young males a six-week work experience and provides additional skill development and adult mentorship to develop transferable career and life skills.
When I heard back from the program, I was directed to the Phalanx Family Services office where I completed an orientation and was assigned a place to work. I was a summer intern, along with about 20 other young males, at St. Stephens Church. Our many duties included assisting with the day care run by the church, working on neighborhood beautification projects, and hosting church events including a car wash and a candy stand that taught us about entrepreneurship.
I appreciated this opportunity, and after personally getting to know my fellow co-workers, I learned that they appreciated it too. Seeing that everybody was benefiting from the program in their own way inspired me, and throughout the summer I became eager to come to work every day. Our mentors in the program, Teia Sanders and Kenneth Wiley, were a very important part of this opportunity and taught us many essential skills such as how to tie a tie. The day after we learned this, they told everybody to dress up and they held a mock job interview. That experience taught me how to perform during a real interview, of which I had the following week. Thanks to that mock interview, the real interview went well and I was offered a job at FedEx Ground.
Ultimately, I decided to focus on school for right now, and I am enrolled at Olive Harvey Community College, studying healthcare.
I am truly grateful for this experience. I learned a lot, both about myself and about the world. I will never forget my experience with the One Summer Chicago PLUS program. It will be something my family talks about for years to come!
Deshawn Shepherd is a 19-year old Chicago native from the Roseland community. DeShawn attended Thornwood High School and earned his GED from Olive Harvey College in December 2012. This past summer he participated in the One Summer Chicago PLUS job program, and worked at St. Stephens Church.
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