Yes for Youth
These aren’t your typical, rumdum summer jobs for teens. Yes for Youth is a Jubilee Jobs program that gives underserved 14- to 18-year old youth in Grand Rapids the opportunity for employment training, followed by a paid summer job in an area of interest, like journalism or social service work.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Jubilee Jobs Executive Director Ruth Lumpkins
: We provide a two-week employment academy prior to assigning students to a work experience that lasts from four to six weeks. This year, our students worked in journalism, administrative and childcare positions and even at food pantries. Our students also receive academic enrichment and career exploration opportunities – the participants and their families may be families who have experienced generational poverty. Our programming also offers parents an opportunity for employment readiness and GED completion as our funding allows.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
To be prepared for a large number of requests. We were contracted serve 20 and we probably had an extra 10 that we couldI have learned that no matter how well I may plan, sometimes something will go awry, and I should not beat up on myself for it.
not serve. We serve kids who live in the Grand Rapids Public School District, and we had parents and students from outside our area seeking support because their communities did not provide such programming. Obviously, our community depends on organizations like ours to help meet needs of the most vulnerable students and their families.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
I have learned that no matter how well I may plan, sometimes something will go awry, and I should not beat up on myself for it. I ask God what it is he wants me to learn from this specific situation. For instance, there was a young lady whose work assignment was in my office as an office assistant. I know her family and I’ve known her all of her life; I asked her quite often how things were going. Just checking in, you know? Making sure she was comfortable being here. She always said yes, but about three weeks into her assignment, I got a call from her mom saying that not everything was fine and that her daughter was a bit unhappy in her work situation. She had never told me this; so I got together with her and her parents and we talked it out. She finished her assignment and things were OK after that. It really was an “aha” moment for me. I am a very detailed person, but I am not the eternal perfectionist that I used to be. Sometimes things just happen.
What really differentiates this program?
Offering a workforce readiness academy prior to work experience assignments. Our participants learn strategies for effective communication, appropriate attire, the importance of teamwork, employer expectations, skills identification, how to resolve conflicts, and how to make future economic opportunities become a reality. This includes teaching some students financial literacy. Our staff has a shared vision and high expectations for all participants. Our staff goes the extra mile to ensure student and participant success. At the end of our program, we celebrate our success and invite our funders to the celebration with us.
What are the keys to success for your program?
First and foremost, having funders – the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – who believe in our community enough to provide the funding. Secondly, having a caring and committed staff and parent Multiple races always work together very well in Yes for Youth – race doesn’t have any effect here. The kids all respond in the same way and they all have fun together while they learn.
engagement. Parental support was tremendous. If we had activities where we needed chaperones, we had a core group of parents that we could always count on. Parent meetings were mandatory.
How does race or diversity affect the work of your program?
Race and diversity are core values for our organization as well as for the foundations that fund us. We are located in the heart of the city where the majority of our vulnerable and underserved participants live. This year, the majority of our students were African- American, as well as two white students and two bi-racial students. Multiple races always work together very well in Yes for Youth – race doesn’t have any effect here. The kids all respond in the same way and they all have fun together while they learn.