The Refuge is launching Youth Career Connection

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Posted 3/19/16

Local nonprofit The Refuge is working with other local organizations and schools to launch a new program to give free job skills training to youth this summer.

To be called Youth Career …

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The Refuge is launching Youth Career Connection


Local nonprofit The Refuge is working with other local organizations and schools to launch a new program to give free job skills training to youth this summer.

To be called Youth Career Connection, it is a new version of The Refuge’s existing Career Connection program.

“We’re still going to teach the same information to these students,” said Kelli Kyle, vice president of The Refuge. “But this is going to be tailored to where they are in life.”

The first students in the new youth program will come from the Boys and Girls Clubs George Johnson Teen Center and the F.I. Denning Center of Technology and Careers, Cleveland City Schools’ alternative school.

The Career Connection classes cover decision-making skills, job interview skills, resume writing, money management, beginning Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel skills and more. The Refuge is also partnering with Cleveland State Community College to offer optional training in customer service or industrial mechanical skills.

Bailey Parker, director of the BGC’s George Johnson Teen Center, said this will give youth the opportunity to build their work skills during the summer, a time when they would normally be looking for things to do.

Parker explained many at-risk youth deal with a lack of self-confidence, so she likes the idea of them being in a career program where they are constantly being encouraged and taught how they can better themselves.

“A lot of our students have the mentality … things will always be the way things have been for them,” Parker said. “It’s going to give them hope and help them see they don’t have to continue in that.”

She added the Youth Career Connection partnership “fits in perfectly” with what the BGC Teen Unit is already doing to get youth thinking about their futures.

Parker said staff have already helped youth there to work toward — and achieve — a 100 percent high school graduation rate. They are now focusing more on setting goals for after graduation.

Derek Morris, the work-based learning teacher at the F.I. Denning Center, said the Youth Career Connection program will help reinforce what he is already teaching students.

Often, he said, a student who has encountered difficulties in school and wound up getting sent to an alternative school will doubt his or her ability to launch a good career. Sometimes, a student’s journey may involve past mistakes or academic failure.

However, Morris explained he and his fellow educators have been trying to get students to see they can make positive changes for their futures.

This new program with The Refuge is expected to give students more job skills — and more people telling them they are capable of doing good things.

“We’re trying to build successes for them and give them the building blocks they need to be successful,” Morris said. “We’re excited about it.”

The Youth Career Connection program will be open to students who will be high school juniors and seniors this fall. Morris and Parker will together be recruiting a dozen youth from their respective facilities to be part of it.

The youth program is being limited to 12 students to allow each one to receive a lot of individual attention, Kyle said. She added that is the same class size her organization tries to stick with for its adult program.

Though it is being limited to students who will be continuing their high school educations in the fall, students who are graduating in May can still register for The Refuge’s regular adult Career Connection program, which has sessions starting in May and August.

The Youth Career Connection program is set to take place June 22 through 25 at The Refuge. Students will then have the option to receive more days of training at Cleveland State Community College’s OneSource Workforce Readiness Center.

Bre LaMountain, coordinator of workforce development at Cleveland State, said students taking part in the optional customer service or industrial mechanical training will be learning real skills they can apply in business and manufacturing settings.

“We analyze where they are and bring them up to speed,” LaMountain said. “The hope with this is that we can affect people at a younger age, as they are first starting their careers.”

She added a lot of the discussions at The Refuge and at Cleveland State will overlap, emphasizing the important people skills students need to know to get hired and do their jobs successfully.

Kyle stressed she is grateful the local Boys and Girls Club center, the Denning Center and Cleveland State are partnering together to make this opportunity available to students.

“I love the collaboration,” Kyle said. “It’s not about our individual organizations; it’s about working together. We’re working together to better the lives of youth in our community.”

She also expressed her thanks to the United Way of Bradley County and all the others who have given financial contributions to make The Refuge’s career programs possible.

Students at the Denning Center and the BGC Teen Center interested in being part of the Youth Career Connection program can contact the leaders at their respective facilities. Current high school seniors and others 18 and older can register for the free Career Connection program by visiting or calling 423-584-5211.


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