Student finds strength in AmeriCorps member-run career service program

by Jared Paben

"Receiving validation not only from our staff, but also from his peers, that he was responsible, committed, hard working and determined, J.’s demeanor changed."

Student finds strength in AmeriCorps member-run career service program

A students found his own strength and began applying himself to improving his life through his participation in a career service program run by an AmeriCorps member at Open Meadow Alternative School in Portland.

The Open Meadow Pathways Training program prepares youth for the workplace by giving them the skills to develop their job 'toolkit' — resumes, cover letters and interview skills. The program is unique in that, during the first two weeks, staff and members work with youth to help them explore their strengths and barriers, have them share their personal stories, and challenge them to achieve their dreams.

The following story of service is from the AmeriCorps member who is serving through the Open Meadow Post-Secondary Readiness Corps and who runs the career service program:

“Days after finishing all of the requirements for graduation from Open Meadow High School at the end of fall semester, J. came to Career Services looking for help in determining his next steps. Within a half an hour, he was enrolled in our six-week Pathways Career & College Readiness training, which was starting the same day. I worked closely with the Pathways cohort, helping students with resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills and college research. Because these things alone are not enough for a youth to succeed after high school, our program dug deeper to look at strengths, values, and personal motivation. Through discussions of finding the strengths in past challenges, confronting discrimination in the workplace, and focused goal setting activities, I got to hear J.’s story and watch his personal growth over the six weeks.

"During the second week, J. had the opportunity to share his story in a small group. After listening to two other students — as well as me — share our successes, obstacles, and strengths, J. shared his story of growing up in and out of foster care, living in a shelter with his single mother and eventually moving to Portland to live with his grandparents. When I asked him what strengths he gained from these experiences, he simple said, 'I don’t have any strengths.' As a small group, we listed strengths we saw in J., but he simply shrugged them off.

"The next week, J. lost his wallet and, with it, the bus passes provided to allow him to get to programming at 9:00 every morning. J. did not miss class. He walked over an hour to get to Open Meadow, leaving his house at seven in the morning. When another member of the cohort pointed out to all of us that J. not only walked to class but was the first to arrive, the class was both surprised and extremely supportive. Receiving validation not only from our staff, but also from his peers, that he was responsible, committed, hard working, and determined, J.’s demeanor changed. He stopped coasting and starting applying himself more. He applied for jobs, researched means to find free, professional clothing, and participated 100 percent in group discussions. He found his strengths and began to succeed.”

Posted on May 5, 2014 in AmeriCorps.