Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 11:53 AM EST
Lisbeth Shepherd is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for her innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.
I believe in the boundless potential of young people. I believe that we need the energy, ideas, and talents of young adults from low-income communities of color as workers and leaders in building an inclusive, sustainable economy. I believe national service is an ideal vehicle through which to engage unemployed or underemployed young adults from these communities in addressing critical climate action goals while gaining skills and vision to get on a path to family-supporting work.
With these principles in mind, I founded Green City Force in 2009. GCF’s Clean Energy Corps combines national service, workforce development, and academics to propel young public housing residents to success in employment or college. We are national model for the Clean Energy Service Corps, created through the Serve America Act of 2009.
GCF creates training opportunities through services related to high-growth fields with entry-level opportunities accessible to young adults without advanced degrees. We have a unique, multi-faceted partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). With our partners, we build urban farms, engage public housing residents in building-to-building challenges to reduce energy and water consumption, expand green space, and help families affected by Hurricane Sandy. In our program, technical skills training in energy efficiency and urban agriculture are combined with transferable skills (outreach, data collection, interpersonal skills) to boost competitiveness and expand options for graduates. Corps Members help advance the goals of PlaNYC, the city’s climate action plan, and the public housing authority’s NYCHA Green Agenda goals. GCF helps them leverage these experiences to connect with employment or with school, and engages graduates in an ongoing community. Our graduates are energy auditors, food educators, landscapers, college students, and active community members.
This is a unique moment in our country. “Opportunity youth” like Shella Hair, a 24-year old from the Bronx, and Sha-kim Johnson, a 19-year old from Coney Island, have the energy and ideas to move our country forward. Addressing climate issues in measurable, innovative ways is urgent. Creating a ladder to opportunity for young adults who have achieved a high school diploma or GED but lack a viable next step is an imperative. At Green City Force, we're connecting these dots. It's time to expand national service as a platform for opportunity, pillar for resiliency and sustainable community development, and preferred pipeline for employers to create good jobs for youth across the country.
Lisbeth Shepherd is a serial social entrepreneur dedicated to creating opportunity for young adults through national service. A 1993 Echoing Green Fellow, Lisbeth founded the leading national service organization in France that inspired the Service Civique for 75,000 young people in France: Unis-Cité.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM EST
Stacy E. Holland is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for her innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.
Daquan, a high school junior in Philadelphia, discovered a passion for the culinary arts through his summer internship this year working at a local restaurant. He worked behind-the-scenes in the kitchen, and as college approaches, Daquan is thinking of pursuing his newly found forte.
Sidney graduated high school this year and began her freshman year of college. She’s known for quite some time that she wants to work in healthcare, but this year’s summer internship provided her with access to professionals in the field offering valuable advice on how to reach her goals.
This summer, thousands of young people like Daquan and Sidney joined the workforce through WorkReady Philadelphia – a citywide, cross-sector partnership dedicated to improving the outcomes of the region’s youth by attracting, aligning, and investing resources in youth workforce-development.
These powerful stories of youth identifying and expanding their career aspirations through work experience are the very essence of why WorkReady was launched ten years ago. Since 2003, our city has been working to ensure that youth in the Philadelphia region have access to the academic, career and support services necessary to build bright futures and prepare them to be leaders in the workforce.
Recognizing that the future economic stability of Philadelphia is predicated on our youth’s ability to compete locally and globally, we are implementing unique solutions to grow and prepare young people for career and educational success. Our portfolio of summer and year-round WorkReady programs is designed to introduce participants to careers, develop their work-based knowledge, and serve as a catalyst for their education and career planning.
In particular, WorkReady summer experiences offer educationally-enriched work opportunities to in-school and out-of-school youth ages 14-21. Participants complete a six-week (120 hour), paid work experience that fosters the acquisition of 21st Century skills through work-based learning.
In Philadelphia, we fundamentally believe the job of developing our young people to be talented professionals of tomorrow is far too big to be the responsibility of any single institution or organization. It requires the community to work together in partnership to achieve that goal. Our community of government officials, educators, community-based organizations, funders, and employers work collaboratively to ensure that we not only prepare young people for future success, but to make the larger community, Philadelphia, a better place to live and work.
Moreover, along with our partners, WorkReady Philadelphia is driving change and creating a significant impact. Since 2003, we have:
- Put more than 86,000 youth to work in internships and training programs
- Raised more than $12 million in employer support for youth internships
- Infused more than $62 million into the local economy through wages paid to youth
- Facilitated on-the-job experiences for youth at over 1,000 worksites across the region
Our system is unique, but our motivation is simple. How can we provide more young people, like Daquan and Sidney, with transformative, career-connected opportunities? This is a movement that is designed to power the next generation and we are committed to not failing. Their lives depend on it.
Stacy E. Holland is the Co-Founder and Former President & CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network. She will continue her work in advocating in preparing youth for college and career success in her new role as the Chief of Strategic Partnerships at the School District of Philadelphia.
- Posted byon September 27, 2013 at 11:48 AM EST
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 11:45 AM EST
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 11:40 AM EST
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 11:26 AM EST
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.
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