TeenWorks offers at-risk teens a job – and a future.
Sixteen-year-old Dieria Moore wanted to earn extra cash during her summer break. When TeenWorks hired her for their six-week youth employment program, the Crispus Attucks High School sophomore got more than a paycheck — much more.
In 1981, Gene Glick launched TeenWorks, formally Pro100, to employ at-risk high school students while teaching them self-discipline and financial responsibility. Despite the benefits of teen employment, many adolescents do not work during the summer.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more minority youth are unemployed than the national average. In fact, in 2013, 28 percent of Black youth and 18 percent of Hispanic youth were unemployed compared to the national average of 16 percent. Most TeenWorks students (97 percent) are minorities.
Mary Boyer, executive director of TeenWorks, says there are ways to increase employment while offering meaningful workplace opportunities for those teens. Providing transportation along with good pay and a meal are among them.
“A lot of students, if you didn’t offer, have no way to get to a job,” says Boyer. “A lot of teenagers by and large are not spending the money to get a driver’s license or buy a car. And if they do, they may share.”
The program employs students in both Muncie, Indiana, and Indianapolis, Indiana. In Indianapolis, 24 vans pick up students at 7 a.m. before meeting at TeenWorks to do a van scramble that diversifies students by age, school, race, gender and career interests.
“It really helped me come out of my shell and communicate with people,” says Moore. “You don’t get along with everyone in your group, so it taught me how to be around people.”
In 2014, 16 groups worked at 11 worksites. One example worksite, Net Literacy, taught employees how to repair nearly 1,800 computers that they later donated to Indianapolis Public School students in need. At Indy Urban Acres, students weeded and picked organic vegetables before walking the produce to a food pantry that feeds the community.
In addition to the community impact at worksites, employees also gave up a paycheck to volunteer at Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis. Boyer says that many TeenWorks families receive benefits from similar programs and volunteering teaches that, “Wherever you are in life, there’s always someone else you can help.”
Community service and skill development have always been a part of TeenWorks, but the changing economy created a greater need to focus on college preparation. Teens receive college exposure through campus visits and learn new skills such as interviewing and resume writing.
Moore, now a sophomore pursuing her nursing degree at Marian University, says that TeenWorks made her college decision easy.
“TeenWorks helped me choose what college to go to. During the college tours I got to come to Marian University and really experience the people that are here.”
Moore benefits from a $10,000 renewable scholarship awarded to six TeenWorks employees that attend one of six universities partnered with the program. The scholarships are funded by The Eugene & Marilyn Glick Family Foundation.
Marianne Glick, Gene Glick’s daughter and current TeenWorks board president, emphasizes the importance of a degree.
“In 1981 if our students graduated from high school they could get good jobs,” she says. “Certainly today that is not the case. You won’t get a good paying job if your education ends at high school.”
In Marion County, 24 percent of high school freshmen complete postsecondary education by age 24. College can feel overwhelming and impossible to teens that lack a college-educated role model, but TeenWorks plans to change that.
This fall, TeenWorks launched TeenWorks 360, a yearlong mentorship program that matches students with an educated adult during the school year. Mentors help students with personal development and walk them through the steps needed to continue their educations.
TeenWorks received grant allocation money from the Community Crime Prevention Grant Program administered by The Indianapolis Foundation for their ability to offer alternative and educational work experiences to high school students.
For many at-risk youth, aspirations beyond high school graduation don’t exist. When TeenWorks introduces the essential skills needed to succeed in life it empowers students, including future nurse Dieria Moore, to discover their potential.
For more information on how to make a grant to TeenWorks, or other organizations focused on college readiness, please contact Rob MacPherson by phone at 317-634-2423 x 509 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.