Non-profit helps young adults find work
by Patrick Kearns
Jun 30, 2015 | 3970 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While communities are dogged by youth, adolescent and adult unemployment struggles, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) is aiming to make a change. Their internship program provides a real solution for 17 to 24-year-olds trying to find full-time employment despite the obstacles life has thrown their way.

The program, called the Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP) at the Jamaica Y Roads Center, is a joint-effort between OBT and the Greater New York City YMCA. It’s a program that’s zeroed in on getting one of the 30 individuals who get selected for the internships full-time employment.

Dani Smejkal, OBT site director, explained that the program is unique in that it is focused solely on job training. It’s not an education program, but a real work-force experience program that provide paid 14-week internships with professional development.

“It does not focus on education, it does not help them to earn their high school equivalency diploma,” Smejkal “What it is meant to do is to provide paid work experience to young adults.”

YAIP works with an array of agencies providing prospective participants with a number of different opportunities.

Some of those organizations include the Jamaica Business Improvement District, Department of Motor Vehicles, Kerry’s Corner, Wyckoff Hospital, Fashion Ave., Dynamix, and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

After the completion of the 14-week internship, a significant number of students are offered full-time work. One of those students was Celeste Lawton, who had just completed an internship with the Jamaica BID.

“It was a great learning experience,” Lawton said.

She said her time at YAIP taught her how to be more professional, which gave her an edge at a job interview with Century 21, where she is about to start full-time in loss-prevention services.

Lawton said she came to the program because she needed a job and a way to make money, since she has a two-year-old daughter at home. She said for her she was able to make deep connections with her fellow participants, as well as learn a lot to set her up for success.

“It got personal,” she said. “You connect with people.”

Lawton said she was doing fashion for displays and posting deals to social media for her internship, which will help her prepare for her career at Century 21.

The professional development also provided a huge boost to her ability to get the job. In her interview, she was asked some of the same questions that she had practiced. Her professional dress set her apart as well.

“I don’t know where I would have learned [those skills], had I not learned that from here,” Lawton said. “I think those skills and the professionalism are all things that I’ve learned from being here.”

Lawton joins a ton of other success stories in working towards their goal of a full-time employment.

Ronnise Winslow attended the program after getting her GED. She interned as a receptionist at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

“This job has proved to me that I can do whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it,” she said. “Not only do I feel good about myself, I also improved my relationship with my mother and the rest of my family.”

Winslow recalled ditching high school and dropping out in the 10th grade before going to an outreach program. She got in legal trouble because of drugs and not going to school, but now she’s turned things around and become a dedicated student and professional.

“I am on a different level and slowly climbing the chart of success,” she said.

Another graduate of the program, Chantelle Colbert, recalled the process of struggling to find a job so she could pay for school and finish getting her degree in fashion. She stumbled on the listing for the paid internship on Craigslist and thought, “I have to get this.”

“This internship has to work or I’m going to be struggling for a long time to get a job,” she said she thought to herself at the time.

Colbert was able to score an internship with Fashion Ave. News through the program, which will help her pay for school and provided her with real-life experience in fashion.

“Continuing my internship,” she said, “I truly realized that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

The Jamaica location isn’t the only place the program is offered. In Bushwick and Ridgewood, adolescents are also offered the same service. That program is run entirely by OBT.
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