Three years ago Goodwill launched a program called Career Leadership Academy for Youth.
The program’s goal is to prepare young people for jobs in today’s market. It’s a long-term program designed for high school and college students ages 14-21 who face academic or financial barriers, are pregnant or parents, first generation high school or college graduates, have legal involvement or are without parents in the home.
Kwain Bryant, Goodwill’s manager of youth services helped create the program. Before joining Goodwill, Bryant worked as a health educator and had a consulting business. He served as a contractor for Goodwill and developed a job readiness curriculum. Bryant understood the needs and had new ideas to offer.
“We want to be innovative and make a long-term commitment to young people,” Bryant said. “Our goal is to mold, shape and develop our participants.”
Bryant said Career Leadership Academy for Youth fills a void by staying connected with participants from high school, through college to employment after college.
The program runs September through May. Students are assigned a vocational coaching specialist and they get coached on academic, career and personal goals.
“We want to tap into what the student is passionate about,” Bryant said.
Participants are required to attend group leadership night where they learn about job readiness, communications, decision-making and goal setting. Once a quarter the students take field trips to area businesses or college tours. The field trips are called Horizon Broadening Experiences.
Another Career Leadership Academy for Youth quarterly project is the Family Strengthening Night when students and their parents get assistance with financial aid forms, tax preparation and other needs. An end-of-year celebration honors participants’ promotions and achievements.
Bryant and his team facilitate the sessions, but he said learning comes from everyone. He said the interaction between the participants creates relationships. When students learn from Bryant, his team members and other community leaders, he says he can see a transformation. “Students get the ‘I can do that too’ experience.”
Shontel Wall, is a Career Leadership Academy for Youth student who is working on her bachelor’s degree in social work at UNC Charlotte.
“CLAY has always been there for me to motivate and encourage me through hard times. They motivated me to become a better person and accomplish goals that I thought were impossible,” Wall said.
“If it wasn’t for CLAY, I would have never known how much potential and intelligence that I had within myself.”
Bryant said the Career Leadership Academy for Youth program also offers a variety of support services for the participants including bus passes for transportation to the meetings, food at the meetings, financial assistance to cover cap and gown fees, test fees for ACT, SAT, military entry level test and clothing for job interviews.
Charlene Price-Patterson is a freelance writer: CPPCityNews@gmail.com.
Want to help?
Although Goodwill underwrites the program, volunteers, guest speakers and financial donations are needed. Tax-deductible donations to Goodwill can be earmarked for the Career Leadership Academy for Youth program. Anyone who wants to learn more about the program can go to www.goodwillsp.org/services/youth-services or call 704-372-3434.