For this week’s Spotlight, We Fight chatted with Amanda Scott, YouthWork AmeriCorps director through Child and Family Services. We’re extremely grateful for the work that YouthWork does to support young people in our community, through job placement and the ability to earn a paycheck while getting 21st-century job skills.
Learn more about the resources offered by YouthWork in our interview with Amanda:
How would you describe YouthWork to a stranger?
Child & Family Services’ YouthWork Industries is a nonprofit workforce development program that teaches valuable skills to young people as they complete conservation and skilled trades projects for nonprofits and government agencies.
YouthWork provides vulnerable young adults ages 16-35 with hands-on experience while they earn a living stipend (paycheck), scholarships, and 21st century job skills.
Crews receive significant training and experience as they complete projects for nonprofit and public partners such as the National Park Service, US Forest Service, local parks & recreation departments, regional/local land conservancies and conservation districts, the Department of Natural Resources, and many more.
YouthWork members get things done for our communities – from planting trees, building boardwalks, or removing invasive species, to wildlife conservation, preserving historic buildings, and more.
What are YouthWork’s impacts on its crew members?
In many ways a workforce development program, YouthWork prepares our next generation of employees while also tackling important local and global challenges.
YouthWork members are often not typical park visitors, conservationists, or volunteers. While all are welcome at YouthWork, as a mission-driven program, the program deliberately recruits “opportunity youth,” youth who are:
- in the child welfare system
- homeless/at risk of homelessness
- on probation or having behavioral issues
- living with disabilities/delays
- in special education programs
- and/or living in persistent poverty
Most face significant barriers to employment have experienced childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect. YouthWork staff are trained in Trauma-Informed Services to better understand and support members.
The impact on YouthWork members is life-changing. Young people who have never been able to trust adults build relationships with their Crew Leader and begin to trust again. Members who are autistic realize the gifts they have are perfect for focused, detailed work like historic preservation. Others have never really spent time in or appreciated the outdoors because they have been concentrating on survival from abuse and neglect.
Members learn the names of trees, how water moves, or how a boardwalk over a wetland area protects the habitat and allows the public to continue enjoying it sustainably—measuring boards, using tools, and working as part of a team. Many have moved into good paying, skilled jobs, while others start at different places, and still need help with the idea of setting an alarm and getting up and on time to a job each day.
What are you most proud of about your organization?
Our crew members and staff make me proud every day. Our staff are some of the most dedicated, caring people you will ever meet, but they also work hard, get dirty, and know how to get things done. They are patient when managing a crew of 3-6 teenagers, they show compassion for the unique challenges our participants face at home and in the community, and they have a real passion for the work they do. And the results of their work are clear.
What are some barriers that YouthWork faces?
I think the biggest thing is just getting the word out that we exist. As a new program started just four years ago, we have grown exponentially and serve more members and project partners each year. Starting in 2018 with just four participants and not much more than a hammer, we are on track to put over 100 young people through the program this year and expect to serve our 400th project partner site this summer.
What would you love to overhear someone say about your organization?
I LOVE hearing stories about past participants and how the program has helped them learn and grow. We get them all the time: from the strong young woman who was referred from our own internal foster care program, served four terms with us, and is now an Assistant Crew Leader; to the young man who lacked confidence and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, who is now an Assistant Crew Leader attending the Construction Trades program at NMC (using his YouthWork AmeriCorps scholarships to pay for it!) and has big goals of starting his own business.
We don’t do this work for the money. We do it for these stories and so many more.
If you had a blank check, what would you fund?
As a mission-driven program, every dollar would fund training, supplies, staff, and equipment necessary to serve more youth and more project partners. Staffing and equipment are our largest, most critical expenses. It is vital to hire and retail qualified staff to teach, train, and supervise our participants. Similarly, the tools and equipment they use to complete projects ensures that our crews provide quality services to our project partners in a safe environment.
YouthWork is partially funded by a federal AmeriCorps grant which supports a portion of member’s living stipends (paychecks), scholarships, and some supervision and training costs. A community match is required.
Grants and donations received are used to: 1) support specific projects, thus reducing or eliminating the direct cost to our partners; 2) provide additional support/training to our staff or members who need extra help; or 3) grow the program and our impact by hiring new staff or purchasing tools and equipment.
YouthWork by the numbers:
- 275+ youth participants
- Over 90,000 hours of community services
- 325+ project partner sites
- 300+ miles of trails constructed/improved
- 2500+ acres of public land improved
- 100,000+ native plants and trees planted
- 250+ public/historic structures restored/improved/constructed
- 75+ boardwalks, observation decks, and staircases constructed/repaired on public lands
- 30+ tons of recycled materials removed from the waste stream
- Learn more about YouthWork
- Request to partner with YouthWork
- Refer a young person you know to YouthWork
- Donate or invest in YouthWork’s programming
- Contact YouthWork for more information
- Follow CFS on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on YouthWork’s activities
Please join in celebrating and building awareness for YouthWork. There are lots of ways — big and small — We Fight members can help, including the following:
- Sharing the Spotlight on social media
- Forwarding this newsletter to a friend
- Writing a review on Facebook or Google
- Telling a friend or neighbor about YouthWork, especially a potential project partner or crew member
- Writing a letter to the editor to support YouthWork
- Contacting YouthWork and asking what they need