The City of Detroit’s summer jobs program for youth ages 14-24 years old, ‘Grow Detroit’s Young Talent,’ is back for another season of hard work and learning. The program, which employed more than 8,000 local youth last year, hopes to achieve the same heights again this year. Grow Detroit’s Young Talent offers youth employment and training in a variety of jobs including community cleanups, event planning, accounting, retail, junior police or fire cadets and more.
Host Stephen Henderson sits down with three representatives close to the GDYT program — Stephanie Nixon, from Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, Shuna Hayward of Connect Detroit and high school student Joslyn Caron — to discuss the benefits of the program for both the youth and employers involved. Plus, they share the impact GDYT has on the city.
Stephen Henderson: This will be the eighth year of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, what have we learned about how important these kinds of opportunities are for young people in our city to get?
Stephanie Nixon, Chief Program Officer, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation: Oh, my goodness. Giving young people an opportunity to explore careers is just priceless. Young people, 14 to 24, can do anything if they really see that there’s true opportunities, and then we give them pathways. So, what we’ve learned over these, you know, 8 years, is that young people are really interested in learning about pathways, and careers, and opportunities, and what it takes to actually be successful in areas that they never knew anything about.
What I really enjoy, and think is valuable about GDYT, is that young people can play in a space safely, and if they don’t like it, they can choose something else. You know, a lot of times we get older, we spend money on tuition and college, and then we realize, uh oh, this is not what I’m really interested in, so, this is career exploration 2.0. And young people are talented, and they have so many options. And this program really gives them a chance to do it in a safe space with meaningful adults and earn money to do so.
Stephen Henderson: Shuna, I wonder if you can talk about from a little bit from the employer side, the kinds of places that are participating and what they’re getting out of all of this.
Shuna Hayward, Senior Program Director: It really is a partnership and a group effort to make the program work. We have community-based organizations, nonprofits that wrap their arms around young people and get them ready for these experiences, and then we have our private sector employers that are ready to embrace and take young people in and offer them, as Stephanie was saying, the exposure to what it’s like to really be in a work setting, to have a boss, to have a supervisor, to have to be somewhere on time, all of those pieces.
And so, we work hard to match young people to things that they’re interested in. So, if you want to be a lawyer, then we want to connect you with the law office. If you want to explore trades, then we want to connect you to some training and experiences in the area that you’re interested in. If you’re interested in non-profits or community work, community development. So, because of the wide range of support that we have in the community, we’re able to offer young people an equally wide range of experiences.
Stephen Henderson: So, Joslyn, this is all about you and other young people like you in our city. So, I’m really eager to hear what this experience was like for you. Let’s start with where you worked and why you chose that place to spend your summer.
Joslyn Caron, Participant, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent: I work, throughout GDYT, I work through the health care program, and I chose that because what I want to do when I get older is relating to that. So, when I get older, I want to become a radiologist, and I chose that throughout the GDYT is because it will help me gain communication skills when I go to that certain field. And also, it taught me pros and cons in the health care field, that will help me decide on where I wanted to go in that career field.
Stephen Henderson: So, tell me what that first day of work was like for you. Most of us can remember our first days of work, we were probably a little older than you were, when we went and did it. Were you nervous? Were you excited? How did that feel?
Joslyn Caron: I was excited because it was my first year doing GDYT, but I was also kind of scared because I didn’t have any friends to do it with, but I knew that I could meet new people to do it with. So, that’s what helped me throughout the GDYT experience.
Stephen Henderson: Stephanie, when we think about programs like this, I think it’s useful in some ways to think about outcomes and hope for outcomes, and then how close we’ve come to reaching those outcomes. Give us a sense, after 8 years, of what kind of outcomes we’re seeing long-term with the people who participate and whether they’re measuring up to what we thought might happen.
Stephanie Nixon: Well, some of the things that we look for, is that young people do connect beyond GDYT to permanent opportunities. Either they go on to post-secondary or they go into permanent work opportunities within the career path that was best for them from their experience with GDYT. We see that young people are retaining these opportunities. They’re going back to school. They’re more likely to take their S.A.T. and A.C.T.
We’ve seen where there is some math scores, we’ve seen a difference in people, young people, just understanding the importance of education, and why, you know, why do I need to learn how to do algebra? Well, there are some careers where algebra kinda is beneficial. So, we talk about contextualized learning. So, I think that retention in school and seeing the importance of education and remaining all the way through to graduation, those are some of the things that we’re seeing. And we’re looking forward to, over the years, young people coming back, being mentors, talking about their experiences. Joslyn, we hope you’ll come back and talk to young people about your experiences and just encouraging them to continue.
So yes, seeing retention in school, high school, going on to post-secondary and then employment opportunities. And what we see is a participation rate that’s above 80% every year. So young people are sticking and staying, and that’s important. Particularly, what we had to go through over the last 2 years with COVID and the virtual experience, young people are staying with us and just really just sticking and staying and moving into career pathways to be the feeder to the workforce of the future.
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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.