It's Off to Work YLA Goes

YLA teens proved you can’t have too much of a good thing as they began stockpiling certifications this spring and summer.

Young Leaders of Abilene (YLA) is a youth program developed and run by Connecting Caring Communities. This leadership training was conceived to apply for a grant from the Future Fund of the Abilene Community Foundation four years ago. YLA began as a summer pre-employment training program, in which north Abilene teens would come together and learn leadership skills during a week of training and preparation, then apply those skills by hosting a 4-week string of day camps for their younger elementary-age neighbors.

The youth were asked to apply for the available positions in writing. The grant money was largely used to provide weekly “pay” to the participants in the form of gift cards, half of which they received weekly, and the other half when the camps had ended. This was done to encourage the youths to stick with the program throughout the summer sessions, and to prevent them from spending all of their money weekly.

With the success of the day camps, YLA became a year-long program filled with training and service projects -- always with a generous infusion of fun and friendships. It is in its fifth year of existence and continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs and interests of our north Abilene youths, thanks to the support of the CFA’s Future Fund grant program.

This year YLA got to work more than ever!

This spring the group attended six sessions with the Youth Ahead program of Goodwill – West Texas designed to “educate and prepare students with employability, entrepreneurial and life skills.” After our summer camp sessions, thanks to a grant from the Greathouse Foundation, YLA participants spent two days with Toni Brockway of the Alliance for Women and Children earning the Red Cross Pediatric First Aid, Pediatric CPR and Babysitter certifications. In addition to these certification cards, the youth received customized business cards from CCC to launch the teens’ babysitting careers.

Each of these certifications can be added to these youths’ resumes as they become old enough to seek employment in the community – in addition to the fact they have been YLA participants. Because of the time that we spend working with these youths all year at Connecting Caring Communities, the staff are available to serve as references when they seek employment.

YLA is on its way to work!

Janet MendenhallComment