Summer Youth gives 38 teens a leg up on their futures

Goodwill Summer Youth has come and gone once again, with 38 participants across our service area. Summer Youth has been making a difference for kids in our communities for more than a decade, bringing them a sense of independence and, for most participants, their first job and their first paycheck.

This year instead of doing two five-week sessions, we condensed the program into one session. This required more job coaches and much more coordination from the workforce development team, making for some initial bumps the team quickly addressed.

“We had a rough start this year just from the influx of job coaches and condensing things down to one session,” said Penny Hall, Workforce Development Supervisor. “But overall, once things leveled out, us doing only one session worked out really well in the end, and this year went by smoothly.”

Summer Youth wouldn’t be possible without partners including Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, our stores, and area businesses.

While we had several partner businesses lined up as job sites, most participants chose to work within the Goodwill stores, with a few taking the option to work at Piggly Wiggly in The Plains, Tarlton Market in Tarlton or Millstone BBQ in Logan.

“I like working at the Goodwill store because my mom works here so I had an understanding of the type of work I’d be doing, and one of the only options in Athens was Piggly Wiggly and that’s a type of work I didn’t want to pursue,” said Kayla Cook, whose mother Amanda Cook is our mission team’s billing clerk.

Within the Goodwill stores, they focus on processing donations from the moment the donations come through the door to when they either get recycled or put out on the floor. When possible, participants also got a chance to shadow during checkout to learn how the registers work and how to interact with customers.

“We gave them specific tasks such as pulling soft lines off the sales floor, and they did a super job cleaning outside the store as well,” said Dawndra Wood, manager at the Washington Court House Goodwill. “They asked a lot of questions and picked up quickly as to what their tasks were.”

No matter what the task or job, they always had a job coach nearby who was there to guide them as needed including with words of reassurance to help build their confidence.

“The individuals who came in thinking it was going to be a struggle, in the long run, showed the best growth overall, and it was a great experience the individuals have enjoyed,” said Faith Laughlin, Summer Youth Job Coach.

This boost in skills and confidence is exactly what the program is about, providing them qualities which will set them apart from their peers as they step out to obtain their first job in the community.

“I feel after Summer Youth that each individual knows what is expected of them in the workplace, and the hard work it takes to earn the paycheck,” Penny said. “Summer Youth is a lot of career firsts for a large portion of these individuals. First job, first paycheck, first set of co-workers, and first real boss. All of these firsts really make an impact, and we hope it was a positive impact.”

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