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2016-08-01 11.33.47BEVERLY, MA, AUGUST 1, 2016….. If 18-year-old Esmayle Gomez did not have a summer job planting crops at the Long Hill Farm in Beverly, through the YouthWorks program, he would most likely spend his days watching TV, playing on his phone, and eating junk food, the teenager from Lynn said last week.

Working on the farm has made him look differently at himself and his future, Gomez told Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II when the Governor’s Cabinet secretary visited the job site. Gomez is one of more than 100 teens hired by The Food Project, an organization on the North Shore that works with teenagers to build job skills, self-esteem and social awareness through farming, community involvement, and educational workshops.

Secretary Walker told the teens their experiences in YouthWorks summer jobs will go with them to every job they have in the future.

“That’s why the Commonwealth supports these jobs. We work with the Governor and the state to make sure everybody has opportunities like this,” Secretary Walker told the teens during a break in their workday. “Your experience will give you options in the future.”

Rose Adolphe, 15, from Lynn, said working with The Food Project has taught her to eat better.2016-08-01 11.18.54

“Before I came here I used to eat junk food like crazy,” Adolphe said, while raking a soil bed where the teens would plant lettuce.

The job taught her other life skills as well. “I learned how to work with people. I learned everybody comes from a different place and to respect that,” she said.

The teens working for The Food Project are among the nearly 4,500 young people across the Commonwealth employed this summer through YouthWorks. YouthWorks is a state-funded employment program that helps low-income teens and young adults gain experience and skills to go from their first job to their next job by giving them invaluable soft-skills, like taking direction and working on a team. Every YouthWorks teen must complete Signal Success, a curriculum that teaches high school students “soft skills” such as dependability, collaboration, initiative and communication to help them be successful in a work environment. Research suggests mastering these skills at a young age predicts future career and life success.

Signal Success was created, and is administered by Commonwealth Corporation, the quasi-state agency under the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Commonwealth Corporation is working to expand the program to high schools around the state during the 2016-2017 school year.2016-08-01 11.23.09

The Food Project has been a YouthWorks employer since 2005. The non-profit organization partnered with the North Shore Youth Career Center in Lynn to sign on as a YouthWorks employer.  The Food Project focuses on helping people in Lynn and Dorchester get access to fresh fruit and produce, as well as provide teens with opportunities for meaningful work during the summer.

“These kids are learning life skills that they carry back to school and to their next job,” said Ann Marie O’Keefe, a Youth Career Center coordinator.2016-08-01 11.16.01

James Harrison, executive director of The Food Project, said teens working the farm and farmers’ markets learn to respect their co-workers, respect the work, and understand how to interact in a job environment.

Esmeralda Diaz, 19, from Lynn, has worked at The Food Project for three summers. She said she has gained life experience she would not otherwise have gotten.

“Every time I come back I discover something about myself and the world,” Diaz said.

Every year, The Food Project grows about 250,000 pounds of produce on 37 acres. The crops are distributed at farmers’ markets on the North Shore, locally-owned grocery markets in urban locations where produce is scarce, or donated to local hunger relief organizations.

“We spend a lot of time and energy on relevance, so youth understand how the work they are doing relates to the community,” Harrison, from The Food Project, said.

To find out more about YouthWorks visit: http://commcorp.org/

To find out more about Signal Success visit: http://signalsuccess.org/

To find out more about The Food Project visit: http://thefoodproject.org/

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