Summer jobs program sets up students for success

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 6:41 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Nearly 100 students will get a jumpstart on their future careers as part of a program from Wilmington nonprofits.

Voyage of Wilmington, Kids Making It and Step Up Wilmington, with support from Bank of America, placed 92 high schoolers at job sites throughout the community.

The program started six years ago with around 20 students.

The students go through an eight week career exploration experience.

Genna Wirth, Executive Director of Voyage, said the program is for young people who face one or more barriers to success and employment.

“We came together to create more than just a job experience,” Wirth said. “We wanted it to be about career exploration. We wanted to be about mentorship. We wanted it to be about job skills development, how to market yourself, how to interview professionally, how to solve conflict in the workplace and really all those things that these kids might not be getting access to at home or in the school system.”

Voyage was founded in 2008 as The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence. It was created in response to violence among youth within the Northside of downtown Wilmington.

According to a press release, more than 180 high school students have previously embarked on summer employment opportunities through Voyage’s efforts.

Kids Making It is a woodworking nonprofit that teaches vocational, entrepreneurial and life skills to at-risk, low income and disadvantaged youth that is also involved in the summer jobs program.

“Everyone at Kids Making It is honored to work with Voyage on the Summer Employment Program,” said Jimmy Pierce, Executive Director of Kids Making It, in a press release. “When the City asked us to implement the program in 2016, we saw the impact of work experience and earned income in empowering our teens and boosting their self-confidence. Realizing the potential for the growth, we partnered with the Blue Ribbon Commission after that first summer to improve and expand the program, which continues to thrive. Through this partnership, we have helped young people explore career options, learn from leaders in fields of interest, develop employment skills, and gain references for the future. We are very thankful for the support of Bank of America, which has been a funding partner of both organizations for many years to help underwrite, improve and grow the program, year after year!”

Wirth highlighted a survey of those who participated in the program that showed more than 94 percent of participants entered four-year or two-year colleges or started careers after graduating high school.

Bank of America is a financial supporter of the summer jobs program.

“We have a longstanding commitment to advancing economic mobility, which is further strengthened with Kids Making It and Voyage as valued partners in connecting young people throughout our region to employment opportunities,” said Derek Cohen, Bank of America President for Coastal NC. “The skills and experience these students gain enriches their lives and academic achievement while also boosting the economic health of our community overall.”

Step Up Wilmington, a non-profit organization that partners with adults through job training, job placement, career development and financial education, helps with the summer jobs program by offering training for the eight-week program.

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