WESTFIELD – YouthWorks is taking applications for summer employment for income-eligible teens and young adults, ages 14 to 21.
Participants take part in paid short-term work placements at public, private and nonprofit worksites, while receiving training in soft core skills and learning how to relate to supervisors and co-workers at their worksites.
Program Coordinator Kim Adamczyk said the program is going forward, despite business and school closures. While admitting they may have to be a little creative this year, she said program sponsors MassHire and Commonwealth Corp. are working hard to come up with employment or learning options for the youth in the community.
Adamczyk said last year Westfield was able to place 53 youth in YouthWorks jobs. “We end up having to do a lottery system in choosing the youth, because we usually have more apply than we have spots for,” she said.
“Typically, the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell takes up to 15 youth, four days a week. They pick them up at Westfield Technical Academy, and they go to the camp, to rake, paint. It’s a great experience for the youth; great hands-on skills with some amazing mentors. We feel comfortable sending that many because it’s a safe environment for them,” Adamczyk said.
Three to five youth are also placed at Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy to work with custodians, cleaning out lockers, and getting the school ready for the start of fall classes. Another location, Fort Meadow Early Education Center, takes youth interested in working in a preschool or becoming teachers.
Local non-profits and businesses that have participated in the past include Habitat for Humanity ReStore Westfield, Pilgrim Candle, and Vivid Hair Salon.
“If we’re unable to do a traditional job placement as in the past, the City of Westfield has a program called Navience which features Roadtrip Nation videos. We were thinking about creating online experiences for youth to learn about a field they might be interested in,” Adamczyk gave as one example for alternative work in the program.
Adamczyk said she is also thinking about reaching out to some local business, such as those involved in the Westfield Education to Business Alliance’s “Adopt a Classroom” program, to see if they would be interested in talking to the youth in the program about their fields, and the educational requirements necessary.
There is an option for businesses in the community to sponsor one or more students and pay their salary ($1200 for the summer). “We could take on more youth if we had more business involvement,” she said. Businesses may also sponsor a week or more of work for Westfield youths through YouthWorks.
“The point of the program is to get youth into the workforce in the field they’re interested in, and give them some really amazing hands-on experience,” said Adamczyk, a paraprofessional in the Career Center at Westfield Technical Academy. She said current circumstances are giving the YouthWorks staff the opportunity to think outside the box and think of creative ways for the youth to do something.
Adamczyk said she also understands what young people are going through at this time. She has 18-year old twins, both of whom are set to graduate this year. She said their reactions have been different; her son is thinking ahead, and her daughter is thinking about the prom. “It’s their year, it’s supposed to be so big for them,” she said.
Adamczyk said she knows how they feel. A full-time student herself, she is working on obtaining a degree in human services.
“I understand what the youth are going through. My practicum was canceled,” she said.
However, she remains undaunted. “I am very optimistic that I will have youth in the work force this summer, which is the ultimate experience for them; but if I need to I will come up with creative ways for them to learn and gain knowledge of the fields that they’re interested in,” Adamczyk said, adding, “The overall theme is flexibility, understanding, working with and for the youth to gain the most out of this as they can.”
YouthWorks is grant-funded, and youth earn the minimum wage of $12.75 an hour. Participating youth must have a family income for the most recent six-month period that does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level. For youth who are still enrolled in school, the program can accept evidence of eligibility for free lunch or reduced lunch under the federal program, which is capped at 185% of poverty level.
Anyone interested in applying may fill out the online application at https://youthworksdata.org/aboutyouthworks.asp?key=key1&yw=Westfield. Applications are due by May 1.
If selected for an interview, youth will be asked to provide the following documents: social security card, proof of household income (may be from school free/reduced lunch status). Other documentation may be requested based on grant funding.
For further information or to answer any questions, contact Program Coordinator Kim Adamczyk, at [email protected] or 413-519-5824.
“I truly love the opportunity to be able to help the youth in the Westfield community,” Adamczyk said.