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Summer Jobs 2011

Results from our youth employment grants & fun facts about the great things youth did this summer are represented in the following infographic:

[click the image for full size pdf]

Note: Some of the programs continue into the school year, therefore these numbers are not final for the grant period.

One last “Thank You” to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for making these grants possible. I saw first-hand what a powerful impact it had on young people this summer and had a great time sharing their experiences.

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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Community Media Center

Steepletown Neighborhood Services employed over 100 youth this summer at a variety of job sites. I had the pleasure of visiting with Josh & Jeremiah at the Community Media Center to talk to them about what they’ve been up to this summer.

Josh & Jeremiah

City High School seniors

Summer Job: Community Media Center

Josh’s Future Plans: Wants to attend Michigan State University next fall

Jeremiah’s Future Plans: Wants to attend college at GVSU or in California to study Film & Video

After training with supervisor Gretchen, Josh & Jeremiah started out the summer working at different camps hosted by the Community Media Center that teach kids about animation, audio, video and more. As they were finishing up, staff at Steepletown were looking for someone to create videos to promote the different programs they offer and Dick Bulkowski, Director at Steepletown, decided to give the job to the boys.

And they’ve done a great job. Before our interview, I joined Steepletown and Community Media Center staff in previewing their works in progress. As I told them then, I wish I had them around to edit my video projects.

So what were their projects about?

“The videos could be shown to potential funders or just to tell people what Steepletown does. Maybe someone would want to send their kid.”

Josh: What I am working on personally is a preview of the Peace Club, what its about, what the kids do. Cause they’ve never actually filmed the Peace Club and its been going since 1994. The Peace Club is a summer program for the kids to basically interact with each other and learn good values and helps them understand how to react around other kids cause they’re working together all the time and they’re always doing team building exercises and if they work together all the time now they will be able to use those values in the future. And when they’re older everything will just click.

Jeremiah: I’m working on a Believe 2 Become video. It’s a program that helps kids go to college. Maybe something’s holding them back; maybe they don’t have after school help. They’re there to encourage them to go to college. So basically we went around and filmed some of the students working at the work sites. And what Steepletown did with B2B is that if they went to summer school, they were employed.

What did you guys learn this summer that you can take with you to a future job?

Jeremiah: Video editing is what I want to do, I hope to go to college for that. So definitely if I apply to another job similar to this, it would help and I think I could use Gretchen as a reference. I just think it will be a good resource for future jobs to say I worked here. And it’s great experience.

Josh: When the project was handed over to us, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’d never used final cut before, I’d never used Apple before. I just think this program and the project helped me gain the experience I could use for another job. And this kind of encouraged me to look into my future about what I want to do. And I thought film seemed kind of interesting and making movies might be something I want to do in the future. And we don’t usually have the resources to make a video, we don’t have a camera. But working here has gotten me a membership for a year so we can rent equipment.

What I noticed most during my interview at the CMC is that Josh & Jeremiah have had a lot of independence this summer and have really earned the trust of their supervisors. They were given the pressure of an upcoming deadline and offered to work over the weekend if they could check-out laptops to take home. With their year-long membership at the CMC, I’m sure they will have many more opportunities to improve their video-editing skills before heading to college next fall.

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Jubilee Jobs

Name: O’Nyia

Age: 17

Summer Job: Photography & Writing at Jubilee Jobs

Future Plans: O’Nyia is looking at attending either Western Michigan or Grand Valley next year. She wanted to study psychiatry, but after this summer thinks she may want to pursue a degree in journalism. [and after talking to me, possibly public relations?] ; )

I met with O’Nyia and her supervisor Belinda last week at Jubilee Jobs to learn more about the program and what O’Nyia has been doing for them this summer.

What do you do at your job? I’m a photographer and journalist. I take pictures and write about events. I dialogue what everyone says and the compliments they give about the program and stuff. I post it up sometimes. It won’t always be a task, but I like to write and I talk about Jubilee Jobs because it has been a great experience so I’ll post it up so when people come in here they know what to expect out of this program.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned? How to multitask. And how to keep busy and have fun while I work but at the same time be professional. But multitasking has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned.

What is your favorite part about the job? My favorite part…. EVERYTHING. My supervisors are really, really nice. Even though it was a laid back job, the things that they had to offer and the experiences I had… I learned it’s something you want to do in life. You want to do it not because you’re getting paid but because you enjoy it. That’s the best part.

Now that’s enough from me. If you didn’t notice, O’Nyia and I basically had the same job this summer, except hers was exclusive to Jubilee Jobs. So instead of me telling you what the kids in the program have to say, I am going to share with you her project from this summer. Enjoy!

I had them tell me what they learned and why it was a good experience. And since I like making up my own quotes and made my board of quotes, I had them make up their own quote or give me one they’ve heard before that they are going to live by  -O’Nyia

Coming into Jubilee Jobs has been an awesome experience. I’ve come to realize that great opportunities can turn into a life- long career or even a great start for ones  future. Life comes with many ups and downs but to get back up and try again will only lead into success. Jubilee Jobs helped me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to and turn the young mind into a mature mind. In this program I have learned a lot about others and most importantly myself. I found out that I can do things that I didn’t even know I can do. But to try never hurts and to say never means you’ll never try. This wonderful program has turned into a powerful voice for many others as well. Just listening and observing can be the way to your path so just keep on moving. Be your own motivator and maximize your great abilities that will soon come.

            “Don’t wait for things to happen, but make things happen!”   *O’Nyia Tucker

During my job site experience I learned how to fax and how to work and manage with kids better. I also learned how to clean pools and turn them on and off. It seems hard but its actually just very simple.

             “Never be a follower, But always follow through!   *Quadralon Mayberry- Figures

 Working at my job I learned how to work hard and show up to work on time. Another thing I learned was how to be more organized. Last but not least is to be a hard worker at all times.

              “Work Hard!”  *Jordan Guy

I have learned about exposure and a lot about my different job fields that I have attended or just talked about. Another thing would be that I learned how to be flexible with time management.

            “It’s not about where you’re from, but where you’re going!”  *Kamari Walker

A few things that I have learned during my work experience would be how to do applications and also how to act and answer questions at an interview. It taught me how to solve situations at a job. It helped me become more mature and more hands on with people at my job site.

            “I can achieve all things if I try hard enough!”   *Khalil Figures

I learned how to file papers and how to do detoxes. That part was very interesting and a good experience for me. I also learned how to answer the phone and how to provide great customer service. My social skills have improved a lot. I love the idea that I have a really nice environment around my job and I love all of my coworkers.

            “Always lead ahead because someone’s always behind you!”   *Mi’Oshia Tucker

At jubilee jobs I learned the importance of communication and working with others effectively. I enjoyed learning how to conduct ourselves in the workplace and outside of it. My personal favorite was the lesson about being confident in yourself especially in the workplace and to always smile.

            “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take our breath away!”   *Charisma Brewster

 I’ve learned from this program that i will need good communication skills in life. And also I’ve learned that i will need to work on my patience if I’m working in a business like office type work i will need to have patience because people might get angry with me and i can’t get angry back

             “Failure is not an option!”   *Ofvion Matthews

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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Uncategorized



Fresh Start at the Hispanic Center

Manny reading to local youth

I recently had the chance to meet Emmanuel [Manny] who has been working as a youth leader at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan’s SOL Program this summer. You’ll hear more from Manny himself in the clips below, but a bit more about him first: Manny is 24 years old; when he was younger he was in a gang, got into trouble and spent time in prison. He came out of those experiences looking for a fresh start and the chance to help young people like him stay on the right track. After volunteering at the Hispanic Center for a couple of months, the SOL Program staff was able to hire him on with the help of the Community Foundation/W.K.Kellogg Foundation grant.

Hear more about his experience this summer at the Hispanic Center and his plans for the future by clicking on the following audio clips:

How Manny got involved with the Hispanic Center:


What he did at his summer job:


One of Manny's photos of SOL youth

About the SOL Program:


What Manny learned from everyone at SOL:


How this experience will help him in the future: [audio]

As he said, he’s got a lot on his plate right now and all of those doors were opened because the Hispanic Center took a chance on him, hiring him as a youth leader. Since finishing his summer work with SOL, Manny has been hired at a local roofing company and started classes this week at GRCC. And finally…

Would he like to go back and work with the the SOL program again? [audio]

Etiquette Dinner at Amway

SOL Staff at Craig's Cruisers

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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Uncategorized



Meet Wedgwood’s Employees

One of my first interviews this summer was with Jackie, Employment Training Program supervisor at Wedgwood Christian Services. She told me all about the program and recently invited me to visit and meet some of her employees.

So last week I sat down with Bayinna and Dontreal and they told me about their experience working with ETP.

Name: Bayinna                                                                          Name: Dontreal

Age: 15                                                                                      Age: 18

Summer Job: ETP                                                                     Summer Job: ETP

Dream Job: Lawyer                                                                  Dream Job: Chef or Nurse

First I asked them to just tell me about the program and what they get out of it…

This is a really good program for kids because it’s teaching them how to manage a real job when we leave. It’s teaching us about responsibility, educates us about jobs and working with supervisors and keeping a good attitude… Kids are really going to get something out of this. It’s really helpful for us, it really is. And just because we aren’t making a lot of money, it’s still the responsibility. And were making some money – my boss takes half of my check and puts it in a savings account so over time it accumulates so when I leave I’ll have some money to live with. I think I have like $300 saved up. It’s accumulating so when I get out, I can put it towards college or something. It’s not about the money; it’s learning and getting prepared for the real world. -Bayinna

I think we all have to work as a team. We have to get along with the boss and with other people. What I get out of ETP and what I’ve learned so far is that you can overcome a lot of things by getting to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. ETP is more of a hands-on training for me, and I learn more with hands-on. It’s more teaching than it is other stuff. I’m getting out a lot of things, there is so much I’ve accomplished and what I’ve improved on and I thank Jackie for that and letting me come into ETP… It takes a lot of heart, you know, to go out there and do something in our community. -Dontreal

Do you think this will help you with what you want to do in the future? It does. It really helps me out a lot with what I would want to do because I would love to give back to my community… Where I’m at right now, I didn’t think I would get to this point in life where I am successful at something I didn’t think I would be good at. I used to have people that would always tell me “Hey, you can’t do that.” But at this job, they encourage you to do a lot more things than people out there would. – Dontreal

What did you guys learn about interviewing? You have to always look the person in the eye, sit up straight, make sure you are pronouncing things correctly and talking very clearly, you have to have something appropriate to wear. – Bayinna

Do you think working here helps you with school? It ties in with school. You have a job at school too. You have assignments to do. You have a job there that’s kind of like a job here. What math will provide over there, it provides over here. It motivates you and pushes you to do what you need to do. – Dontreal

What is your favorite part about working here? I like working out in the community: mowing, trimming and weeding for people. I know if they can’t do it, there’s someone out there that can, like me, so I’ll go out and help people. Even if it’s a hot day, it’s tough and difficult and I don’t want to work that day – I still go out and do it because I like helping people. – Bayinna

Do you feel more confident that when you need to find a job on your own that you’re going to know what to do and how to act? Well right now I’m looking for a job out in the community…. This helps us. It motivates us to try to do more. And when we get the job we’re going to know what to do, what to say because we’ve already had that kind of training. -Bayinna

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Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Uncategorized



Comprenew’s Urban Garden

Last time I checked in with Comprenew, the youth were excited to be the first team to lay the groundwork for an urban garden. I recently received these photos updating me on their progress this summer. Enjoy!


Landscape Fabric & Bed Placement

Soil Prep Lesson

Soil Filled Beds

Planting Seeds & Plants in Garden Beds

Tomato Planting Lesson



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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized



More Success at Project C.O.O.L.

Name: Tia

Age: 15

School: West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science

Summer Job: Duthler’s Family Foods

Future Job: Social Worker

This was Tia’s second summer working with the help of Project C.O.O.L. Last year, she did a lot of gardening and community work at Southeast Community Association. This summer she was placed at Duthler’s Family Foods doing everything from cleaning to bagging groceries to working in the bottle room.

What do you want to do after high school? I want to be a social worker and I want to go to Western Michigan University.

How do you think this job will help you in social work? It taught me to have a lot of patience with people.

How was your interview with Project C.O.O.L.? I was nervous, but it was okay. You get tongue-tied.

What did you learn about interviewing? Smile, don’t have a bad attitude, really think about the answers, and keep your grades up and do good in school because it’s based on that too.

Name: Jesse

Age: 17

School: Wyoming Park

Summer Job: Duthler’s Family Foods

Future Job: Business Owner

Jesse also worked at Duthler’s Family Foods this summer stocking and unloading trucks.

How did you get involved in Project C.O.O.L.?  Two years ago I was in Project COOL, the first time I worked at a car wash. This time I applied for it and I couldn’t get in cause of funding, and then 2 weeks or so later they called and said they found enough funding and I would be placed at Duthler’s. I wasn’t too concerned about working at a grocery store but once I got there I really liked it.

How was your interview? It was pretty good. They asked me some pretty tough questions.

What was the most important thing you learned? Maintain your job, always be on it, always be on time.

What was your favorite part of the job? It was never boring. Always something to do.

What do you want to do after high school? I want to start my own business. Not sure what yet. I really want to go to the University of Michigan. If not, then Ferris.

In addition to telling me about his great time this summer, Jesse had some more exciting news to share…

They hired me at the end of the program. The manager said he really liked what I was doing and how I worked, I was always on time so he asked me if I was interested in actually working there. I start tomorrow.

Another example of how summer jobs like Jesse’s can lead to more permanent positions and open doors to new opportunities. Hope things are going well for him after a couple weeks as a regular employee!

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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized