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For these young people, work is more than a job

November 18, 2009

The Youth Apprenticeship Project (YAP) is an initiative of the Neighborhood Learning Community in the West Side neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn. YAP connects West Side young people with summer jobs where they learn valuable civic and vocational skills, and establish lasting connections with the community. For each of the past five summers, 20 to 35 young people have worked part-time through YAP.

Pictured above are some of the 2009 youth apprentices. Jalil Shabazz is in the white sweatshirt.

One of the best things about YAP is that it helps to create lasting intergenerational connections between youth and their mentors. Many YAPpers stay in touch with the people they work for or turn their summer jobs into year-round employment.

Brittany Schwartz spent the summer of 2009 working in the offices of Laura Blubaugh, a committee administrator for the Minnesota State Senate. Brittany and Laura have remained in touch, meeting every month or so to check in.

“Working as an apprentice at the state capitol provided Brittany not only basic office skills, but also a recognition of how government policies relate to her own life,” Laura observed. Brittany asserts that she will use Laura’s advice and guidance as she applies to other jobs and college.

Jalil Shabazz worked for the West Side Citizens Organization under the mentorship of Carlos Garcia-Velasco. They also remain in contact, catching up at events like Peace Jam. Jalil says he is using the skills he learned this summer in his life today. “I learned about doing things at the right time,” said Jalil. “I learned how to step up and be a better organizer.”

The food shelf at Neighborhood House and Cindi Yang hosted YAPpers Khou Yang and Nai Yang. Cindi Yang was so pleased with their work that she hired them for the school year.

“These two really impressed me this year,” said Cindi. “It’s just something about their will to survive and to do better that truly deserves continued support from someone. I can see them doing very well in life if they continue having a positive attitude and work hard.”

These young people and many others have benefited greatly from YAP, becoming active citizens and participants in the life of their community.

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship is a partner in the Neighborhood Learning Community. This post was written by Jamie Pierson, an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer.


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