Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Youth SummerWorks Program Makes a Difference

Looking back, no one could have predicted that a big time Portland marketing firm like Quango would have ever hired a kid like Randy Salazar (see left). He was a high school dropout, mixed up in drugs and just squeaking by.

Since then, he’s reinvented himself.

“I decided to do something with my life and give success a try,” he says.

Little more than a year ago, Salazar graduated with perfect attendance from Portland YouthBuilders—the place where he discovered his passion for computers. This summer, he’s putting his passion to work—and his supervisor Marcelo Anteparra-Naujock (featured at right with Randy) couldn't be happier with his work.

“I’m their IT specialist. I love it here,” says Salazar. “It’s the perfect fit for me and the company. I want to be a network administrator someday and I’m having tons of fun taking all the steps to get there.”

For youth like Randy Salazar, this summer job is about more than just money. It’s about building a strong resume and getting the hands-on experience needed to launch a career. Salazar is just one of nearly 1,200 local young people who are earning a paycheck this summer thanks to Youth SummerWorks, a new program administered by Worksystems and fueled by federal stimulus money. For the Portland metro area—where teenage unemployment is among the worst in the nation—this is a big leap forward. It’s the first large-scale summer jobs program aimed at low-income youth in the metro area in nearly a decade.

Youth SummerWorks exposes young people to the workplace, enhances academic skills and increases marketable skills to help make informed career choices. Youth participants learn the value of earning their first paycheck which encourages them to build strong work ethics and a pathway to productive employment.

Research shows that students who work a summer job are more likely to stay in school and graduate. For a region that has a high school dropout rate at 21% the Youth SummerWorks program is giving youth the opportunity to make the connection between success in school and success in the workplace.

Thanks to the many work sites who have opened their doors and to the dedicated staff and youth providers (such as Barb Timper from Worksystems and Sid Klein from Portland YouthBuilders, featured at right with Randy) who have worked to make this program a success.

To see more youth on job sites, click on the slide show featured in the side bar.


Anonymous said...

I was worried about what direction Randy was going, until he became involved with Youth Builders. He is such a changed young man, I am so proud of him! GREAT JOB RANDY!!

Worksystems said...

Thanks for this feedback! These programs really do make a difference in young lives.

Anonymous said...

As a site host to three youth from this program, the Portland Schools Foundation has been absolutely thrilled with to participate in this work. Our three youth are passionate, engaged, and committed to our mission. They've grown through their time here and we've benefited immensely from their contributions. And WSI and the youth services provider (Open Meadow) have been great to work with. Thanks for a well-run effort this summer - let's do all we can to bring it back next year.

Nate Waas Shull
Director of Community Engagement
Portland Schools Foundation

Worksystems said...

Thanks Nate! I'm happy to hear that your engagement with the students has been so positive and it sounds like they had a rewarding work experience with you. We are so fortunate to have great partners like the Portland Schools Foundation and Open Meadow. Rest assured that we will be working diligently to keep this program going!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, someone has been watching over me.... I don't how to feel about that. With that said thank you very much for the great feed back. thanks!


Worksystems said...

Randy, it sounds like you have a lot of people pulling for you. Keep up the great work!

Ruby at Science Camp said...

This is an amazing program! Not too many programs reach out to dropout students. I believe that one of the most important steps for our youth to be successful is to give them a chance to prove themselves. Just like Randy, many others are still working hard to achieve their dreams.

Tricia said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, Ruby. We are very proud of this program and the kids who participate in it. I looked at your program as well and it sounds absolutely wonderful! Keep up the good work for kids in your neck of the woods too. We're all in this together.