GR Summer Jobs Journal '12

See how Grand Rapids area youth are spending their summer!

Baking involves a whole cupboard full of other skills

Watch what 13 young people are doing Monday-Thursday at Breaktime Bakery this summer.

“The W.K. Kellogg Youth Employment grant has really helped us do some different things,” said Program Leader, Eric Schalk. “We were able to buy some new baking equipment and some new things for the store. We also used the money to provide the kids with healthy lunches each day.”

“The most important thing I’ve learned in this program is how to work as a team,” said Slater S.

For some youth at this Summer Jobs location, the opportunities can continue for many years. “I have been a part of this program for a while,” explained Christian. The 15-year-old says he started as a child in the little kids group and then worked his way into the bakery. “I worked at the bakery as a youth worker and then I became a volunteer leader for a while. Now I work outside on the urban farm.”

From learning how to follow directions, how to work together as a team and the hands-on approach to helping in the store, young people at New City Neighbors are building skills that will surely help them in the future.

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Youth workers in action

Check out what two Summer Jobs youth employees are doing for their work experience provided by Jubilee Jobs.

Makenzie F. and Amarra H. worked on the article, The Other Side Of Keeping Cool. The piece was published in the July 13-19, 2012 issue of The Grand Rapids Times and online. Click here to read more.

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Helping children one sack supper at a time

“You can read anything about an organization,” said 16-year-old Akilah F., one of the two Kids’ Food Basket (KFB) youth employees sponsored by the Youth Employment grant. “But you’ll never know anything until you experience it.”
Akilah describes herself as a go-getter. She worked through the City of Grand Rapids LEAD program last summer and currently works part-time at Panera Bread. She writes for The Rapidian and also holds a leadership position with Above the Influence, a program designed to help keep young people drug free. Working for Kids’ Food Basket has been an added bonus for her this summer.
“My leader at Above said I’d be great for this Kids’ Food Basket position because of all of the things I like to do,” she said. “I love working with kids. I often volunteer at the Children’s Museum downtown, so working with kids, and for kids, in a different way is something I am really looking forward to.”
Operations Coordinator, Becca Danz, says about 30% of the volunteers at KFB are under the age of 18. “I think this program is something that is tangible. The youth can see it and it really puts things in perspective. We aren’t just giving out food, we are giving out hope.”
Roughly 170 volunteers make their way through the KFB warehouse at 2055 Oak Industrial Drive on a daily basis during the school year. This summer, Akilah will be assisting in all aspects of the organization, including traveling to Muskegon to help build up a satellite KFB operation presently working out of a church. “If I can be a part of something great for the community and help a lot of people, then that is what I am going to do.”
Akilah says her greatest qualities include her writing skills, her persistence and her communication skills. “I like to get things done and done well, and I make sure I find a solution so that things can get done.” 
A soon-to-be-senior at Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids, Akilah said she used to play sports but an injury sidelined her. “I had to figure out what was best for me because even through physical therapy, I still couldn’t play sports like I had. My injury taught me patience with others and myself, and also how to look at the world differently and not to take advantage or anything for granted.” Her hard work and dedication after her injury instilled in her a drive to make a difference.
As for the rest of the summer, Akilah energetically explained, “I am excited to be out in the community and I am proud to be wearing this Kids’ Food Basket shirt. I feel so empowered. This is a great cause because the food we give is food that kids enjoy but it is also healthy too, and that is most important.”

Rapidian articles by Akilah:

Teens to attend town hall youth summit

Youth Council gets up close and personal with Mayor Heartwell

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Working can be fun and rewarding

Music by Ninja Tuna

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LEADing the way

“I want a job that will directly help other people,” David.

The Leadership and Employment, Achievement and Direction (LEAD) program provided by the City of Grand Rapids offers students the opportunity to improve their leadership skills, enhance their employability skills and prepare for success as they enter the workforce after high school and/or college.

Last week, a group of 24 young people spent a great deal of time at City Hall learning about local government and the importance of community activism and civic engagement. When GR Summer Jobs Journal caught up with the group, it was at Creston Neighborhood Association preparing for an afternoon of volunteer-type work.

The youth employees working through the City of Grand Rapids have already participated in a number of different workshops. From a leadership retreat, to a social media workshop, to an

“I am looking forward to new opportunities, meeting new people and learning new things,” Kelly J.

acting workshop and mock interviews, and even having the opportunity to meet the Mayor of Grand Rapids, these LEAD youth are learning the ins and outs of what it is like to be successful and engaged in our community.

“I really liked the team retreat,” said 16-year-old Kelly J. “At first it was really quiet because we didn’t know each other, but now, after activities where we had to cheer each other on and encourage one another, we’ve created really great bonds.”

David said, “I want a job that will directly help people. I think this past week has been very insightful and I am learning how to do a good interview, have confidence and be a leader.”

Creston Neighborhood is in the north quadrant of Grand Rapids and was recently approved as a North Quarter Corridor Improvement District, which gives a special property tax capture status to the vicinity. The area is considered a food desert – meaning there is not enough fresh produce available for the population. To combat this problem, Creston Neighborhood Association created an urban garden for neighbors to be able to grow fresh produce.

While there, the youth worked on the urban garden. Some spread new mulch, others picked weeks, and one young man even had the chance to use a long device to trim branches from a large tree that was throwing too much shade over strawberry plants. A handful of the youth workers also painted signs for a Creston Neighborhood movie night.

The youth employees will begin interviewing for their job positions in July. The young people must successfully complete the LEAD program in order to land an interview at a hiring organization. Once hired, the youth will work throughout the summer and on into the fall.


A few spotlights

Kids’ Food BasketJubilee Jobs, Inc.City of Grand Rapids – LEADGrand Rapids Urban League Jubilee Jobs, Inc.

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Summer Jobs on Catalyst Radio

Listen to the radio interview between Linda Gellasch with WYCE Radio 88.1 FM and Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s PR & Marketing Intern, Katelyn Sandor and Vice President of PR & Marketing, Roberta F. King.

The half-hour interview covers a wide range of topics related to the Youth Employment grant and Summer Jobs program.

Check out the story and listen to the interview on The Rapidian or Download the mp3

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Learning about being on the job

What does it take to be a high quality employee? Good communication. Being on time. Having a positive attitude.  Being a hard worker. The list goes on.

For youth employees at Jubilee Jobs, these skills and others were just a few discussed by Executive Director, Ruth Lumpkins at the two week Employment Academy.  The program began last week and GR Summer Jobs Journal ’12 met up with the employees in training at Baxter Community Center.

We walked into an afternoon learning session that was abuzz with something called a “10 minute Challenge.”

The challenge is an ice-breaker activity that provides a plethora of examples of what it takes for an employee to interact with others and find success in a workplace setting. After 10 minutes, the youth were to have completed a series of steps, some silly, like singing a song or forming a conga line, and others a little more serious, like answering the question: What is something you are good at? The activity helped to create cohesion between members in each group and also provided the opportunity for leadership, organization, compromise and critical thinking.


Age: 14

How do you think the training you are doing will help you on the job?

The training is like a test, if you study and listen, then you’ll succeed on the test. This training is like the studying and as long as we apply what we learn, then we will be able to do well in our jobs.

As reiterated by Ms. Lumpkins – for young employees, knowing ones role in the workplace is critical.  In many ways, being a student is like being an employee. You are expected to be in class at a certain time, to get your work done and done to the best of your abilities, to pay attention, to be respectful, to ask questions and to be cooperative with your peers and superiors.

“In the workplace, you’ll be graded on how well you’ve completed tasks,” said Ruth. “This is an opportunity to make a few bucks, yes, but it is really the benefit of having a work experience where you are challenged and can grow, that will help you the most.”

Brothers, Isaac and Isaiah

Age: 15

What sorts of jobs skills are you hoping to learn about?

I want to learn about how to work with numbers. I want to own a business someday, so I need to know how to do everything. –Isaac

What are you looking forward to this summer, specifically in the working environment?

I want to get to know other people, have the fellowship and learn how other people act. I want to make money, save and have fun – but do my work at the same time. I am willing to do what I have to do. – Isaiah

What are your plans for the future?

We both want to move to Georgia, which is where we are from. We want to open up a salon, do styling, open a boutique, design shoes and have our own business. –Isaac and Isaiah

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Let’s talk health

GR Summer Jobs Journal ’12 recently traveled to the Grand Rapids Urban League to chat, interview and gather insights from the youth and program leaders there.

The Urban League program is set up in a classroom setting. The youth workers involved in this program are young men headed into their freshman year of high school. Most of the young men described themselves as athletes with aspirations to make it to the NFL or the NBA. But the most common goal was this: I want to get to know who I am.

During our visit, youth at Grand Rapids Urban League were learning about what it takes to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. The 20 or so young men were divided into three groups and then asked to create a list of changes they could make to their daily lives this summer to improve their overall health. The groups came up with things such as stay away from too much sugar, exercise daily by running and lifting weights, not doing drugs and taking time for personal reflection and planning.

One young man asked the leader, “What does being healthy have to do with working?”  “Being healthy is about being happy too. You want to be in good health to be able to go to work,” said the youth employment leader, Bryan Mckissack. “You want to be in good health to be able to do what you are supposed to do at work. You need to be in good health to be able to enjoy your time away from work. Being healthy is something we all have to work at, but it is something that is attainable. Just eating and exercising isn’t enough, you need to work on having a healthy mind too.”

Bryan ended the healthy you discussion with a breakdown of the 4×4 plan:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Diet
  2. Engage in Regular Exercise
  3. Get an Annual Physical Examination
  4. Avoid All Tobacco Use and Exposure

Youth workers at the Grand Rapids Urban League attend work/classes three hours a day, Monday through Friday. This program is about helping youth find out who they are and how they can use their skills and abilities to find happiness and success in life.

Checkout the Interviews and Videos tab to get a glimpse of what these young men are looking forward to at Grand Rapids Urban League this summer.



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What does this summer job mean to you?

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