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By Daisy Gomez-Hugenberger, communications coordinator for the Department of Youth Services

Through an enduring government and nonprofit partnership, youth engaged with the Department of Youth Services (DYS) are receiving leadership and employment training from social enterprise More Than Words (MTW).

Since 2006, More Than Words (MTW) has empowered DYS youth to make positive changes in their lives through education, employment and opportunities towards self-sufficiency. With a Bridging the Opportunity Gap (BOG) grant from DYS through the state’s, Commonwealth Corporation Educational Services contract, More Than Words is currently providing workplace-readiness training and summer employment to DYS youth who are transitioning into the community following residential treatment.

Participants are provided a variety of employment trainings and are taught important job-related skills such as managing inventory or shipping orders. Currently, several DYS youth are helping manage an online bookselling venture that operates out of a warehouse in the South End neighborhood of Boston, and a Starbuck’s-inspired bookstore and café on Moody St. in Waltham.

The partnership’s success is evident: 75 percent of DYS youth obtained work experience or opportunities to further their education. One DYS youth, Cory, joined More Than Words in December 2011, and since then has accomplished two important goals: he has completed his GED and he received a promotion at work. Cory describes MTW opportunities as “not your typical job-job – it’s a transitional job that helps you prepare for what’s next.”

Youth involved with the MTW program also set aside work hours each week so they can commit to specific modules that relate to their individual goals. Modules include topics such as “how to talk about a Criminal Offender Record Information or CORI”, “steps to complete a GED”, “how to write a professional cover letter and resume”, and “help with researching colleges,” to name a few. Cory’s favorite part of his job is the time he spends working on himself and the extra “push” and support he receives from More Than Words staff to keep working towards his aspirations. With help from the MTW team, Cory is currently focusing on securing full-time employment at a local moving company.

MTW
MTW participant, Jarris works on adding newly donated books to warehouse inventory which will then be uploaded to a database for online purchase

Youth at MTW not only strengthen critical business skills, they are also required to work towards accomplishing individual milestones. Youth participants are asked to choose what personal goals they want to accomplish during their MTW participation; typically, youth identify completing their GED or HS degree, admission into a 2 or 4-year university, and/or securing full-time employment, and develop a plan with MTF staff to meet their objectives.

Like Cory, MTW participant Jarris enjoys working towards goals that will empower and improve his options for the future. Jarris set his personal goal early in the program – to get into a college – which he has accomplished this year. As part of his professional growth, Jarris will also begin a one-year intensive training program in technical skills in September. Once his training is complete, he will be eligible to participate in an internship through a relationship with the nonprofit organization Year Up and its corporate partners.

DYS is invested in providing a continuum of services through agencies like More Than Words. Collaborations supported through Bridging the Opportunity Gap (BOG) grants strengthen the way we address the career readiness and employability needs of DYS clients. We look forward to continuing to foster relationships with agencies that provide youth with tools needed to succeed in their communities and reinforce our efforts to make a positive difference in their lives.

 

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