As some may say, youth hold the key to a better future. However, without work experience before their adulthood, youth are more likely not to succeed in their future career. 

The Youth Summer Employment Program (YSEP) at Oakridge and the Evelyn K. Davis Center, is an eight-week, paid, part-time work experience during the summer for youths in Des Moines. Both summer programs give youth as young as 14 work exposure they might need in the future and a chance to explore interest in different careers. Throughout the program, youth experience a sense of accomplishment and personal achievement, while also gently pulling them away from the parental-guarded environment, which will help pave the way to their adulthood.

"We don't only want people with privilege to have the opportunity to have really good summer internships in high school,” says Stephanie Chin, Community Impact Officer of Income at United Way of Central Iowa. There's a lot of great talent in the community. This program gives youth opportunities, that reveals them to jobs available for the community."

Interns at YSEP are divided up at organizations around Des Moines. Some of the places are Hy-Vee, John R. Grubb YMCA, Iowa Department of Human Rights, and many more. For me, I was placed at The Willkie House at first. They needed some assistance with the Summer Camp they have for kids in the neighborhood. I was really excited to start working there since it would be my first job and I would spend time with little ones. Unexpectedly, a few days before I could start, the director of youth services mentioned that I seemed very mature and responsible for my age and decided to place me as an intern at United Way of Central Iowa, which is an organization that is partnered with both programs.

A personal experience

While working at United Way, I've gained countless skills that I always thought I would struggle with throughout life, since I tend to be very antisocial. For instance, communication skills and team working skills are some of the basic skills that I try hard to excel in. Assuredly, working at United Way allowed me to improve on those skills since it’s a business environment, and you have to get use to responding to greetings, meeting new people and having conversations, or just talking with your workmates about projects you plan on working on with each other.

"If you talk with most adults, they always remember their first job,” says Marvin Dejear, director of the Evelyn K. Davis Center. “Really, those first few jobs actually start to lay the foundation for who you become later on in life. So, without those experiences while you're still young, to have a chance to learn and grow from them, it's really a setback for you down the road."

The Youth Summer Employment Program has given me the opportunity to experience how the work life feels and looks like and how to maintain a job: things such as getting there on time, making sure work gets completed, calling in if you're not coming in that day, etc. Also, I was informed more about what I plan on doing in my career, which is film directing. I learned about different shots directors use when filming and even went to Sculpture Park to film there.

Throughout all the different sites interns work at, they come in knowing what they're doing is not only good for the community but is also very helpful and educational to them for the near future.

Another intern Flora describes her experience in this way: "It's going great so far, especially getting the opportunity to work with kids and to keep my options open on what I want to do with my life. Supervising kids isn't as easy as I anticipated. It takes time to adjust to them. The main thing is to be patient with them and the coworkers, to get the most out of working there. If you asked me if this job was worth my summer, I would answer definitely! It’s a good opportunity and experience any teen could have."

Benefits to employers

Although the program is very beneficial and worthwhile for the youth, it is also very helpful towards the employers. It benefits them in improving the community and their business. Employers gain experience while working with young people, due to most of the partnered businesses with the YSEP program having limited experience working with youth in their company. One of the main goals is to create a positive experience for both the youth and organizations taking part in these programs.

cyntechy and moni

My supervisor Ramona Gaukel, grants director at United Way, says: "Having you (Cyntechy) here this summer has allowed me to grow by learning how to manage an employee. You are always happy to be here and ready to learn. At the beginning of your time here, you were really quiet. Over time though, you have grown so much and always willing to ask questions and take on projects. I am excited for your future. You have a lot to give this big world!"

“She’s been just fabulous!” says Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “She has a positive attitude, is willing to help out by taking on new tasks.”

Overall, I am so very thankful towards United Way and the Youth Summer Employment Program for giving me this amazing opportunity and experience at such a young age. Especially to the employees at United Way, for always being so welcoming every day and making sure I got the most out of working there.

Not only am I prepared for high school and taking on life in the real world, now I am more encouraged than ever, about following my career path of being a film director.

To learn more about how United Way of Central Iowa works with youth to prepare them for future success, view our issues page:

Learn how United Way fosters youth success

About The Author: Cyntechy Boduo