By MIKE CHAIKEN
Thirty-four youths earned a living, learned about the world, and served the community thanks to the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program run by the Bristol Community Organization.
The program, which is funded by Capital Workforce Partners, found the youths participating in classroom activities, such as how to write a resume. Additionally, the youths conducted a food drive and learned how to cook.
But, primarily, the youths were put to work.
(An additional summer employment program is offered by BCO that served 24 youths. It was privately funded.)
On a recent day, some of the participating youths were found working in the community gardens behind O’Connell School on Park Street. Another group was at the Christian Fellowship Center to help prepare groceries for the clients.
Marielis Mercado, 16, a student at Bristol Eastern High School, was one of the youths working the gardens at O’Connell School. She said the herbs and vegetables they were growing would eventually be donated to the Christian Fellowship Center.
As part of the program, Marielis said the teens were learning what was expected of them in the workforce. For instance, she said there may be people who you work with you might not get along with, but you have to be nice to them all the same.
Ideara Gordon, 15, of Bristol Central High School said she had learned about gardening through the program. But, more importantly, like Marielis, she said she learned the proper etiquette of the work place. She also learned about the importance of teamwork.
At Bristol Public Library, Brandon Seranno was taking the resume workshop offered through the summer employment program. “It’s helpful because in the future I need to make one for myself for a bigger job.” For Brandon, the biggest hurdle he found in writing a resume was getting used to writing about himself. “It’s hard to explain myself without trying to sound like I’m bragging.”
Brandon Nuccio, 17, of Bristol Central said, “I’m glad they’re teaching (how to do a resume)… It does prepare us for future job searches.”
Other workshops were offered as well through the summer program.
“We had a workshop on bullying,” said Ideara. “We all opened up and told stories. It really taught me a lot. I got to know people better than before. I look at them differently now.” She said it also gave the youths some perspective that their own experiences are not all that different from others.
As part of the program, Brandon also said he learned about custodial work. That opportunity has helped him find his future calling. “I enjoy it,” said Brandon, noting that custodians often do more work than people are aware of. “It kind of helped me learn more about the field.”
Although many of the students are in their first year in the program, Brandon is marking his second year. Last summer, he said he participated because “my mom kept telling me I needed to get a job.”
But this year, Brandon said, he didn’t need any coaxing. “I actually liked it. The people who I worked with were really nice.”
Ideara said she heard about the program from her sister, who participated. Her sister liked the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program enough that Ideara said she decided to apply herself.
Devon Walker is an alumni of the BCO’s summer employment program and this year he is one of the supervisors.
“I felt that I learned the skills to preside over the rest of the groups… They would listen to me because I’ve had some experience with this,” said Devon.
Devon said, as the youths’ supervisor, “I’ve taught them how to be professional in a work environment and some of the interpersonal skills necessary.”
Besides being the teacher, Devin said, he’s learned a few things about himself as well tjos uear. “I learned I can get my point across to all of the different people.”
Also, Devon said, “I learned patience. Patience is key.”
“I would definitely recommend (the program),” said Ideara when asked what she would tell prospective participants. “It’s a good time.”
“The people at BCO are nice,” said Brandon. “They’ll help you. And you’ll make some good friends.”
“I would totally suggest it,” said Brandon. “It does teach you a lot.”
Devin recommended the program to the youths of Bristol because, “You learn things that aren’t necessarily taught in the home. Kids from certain backgrounds wouldn’t know how to garden because they might not have the resources. They might not live in an environment where there is a garden.
“It also teaches them some nutrition and how to eat healthy,” said Devon.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN