CHAMPAIGN — The school district’s summer youth employment program is expanding. Organizers want it to be a year-round service. They’re building on it slowly with some new additions this year. The summer work is still the main focus, but they want to add to the experience by checking in with students through the school year to help them meet their goals. Then eventually they want to expand even more.
Central High senior Kayla Napper isn’t sure where to go to college yet, but she has a solid foundation.
“When I was in 8th grade, I always wanted a job and I was always work oriented,” said Napper.
She signed up for the district’s Summer Youth Employment Program and has been involved ever since. Hundreds of other kids have been part of it too. They spend six weeks of the summer working around Champaign or Urbana. Students say they learn a lot.
“How to file things, answer phones, handle clients and things like that,” said Napper. “It taught me to have organization and responsibilities and be dedicated to something.”
District leaders say they’re proud of how things have been going, but they can do better. They changed the name of the program to “YES” — Youth Employment Services. Even though summer work is still the priority, year-round check in’s are being added.
“We want to make sure we talk with them when there’s still time to either make adjustments,” said Mindy Smith, who is the program supervisor. “Or just if [they’re] right on track, keep it up. Just let them know we’re there if they need something.”
With time, Smith says they want to expand even more.
“The goal eventually is to be able to offer work experience opportunities throughout the school year, as well for students who are able to manage both going to school and having some work time,” said Smith.
Students say they’re grateful for the experience.
“In the beginning, it was really nerve wracking,” said Napper. “Being so young and going into an office and not knowing what to do and learning new things and having bigger responsibilities than you usually do, it was hard in the beginning, but as the years went on, it got easier for me and it was something I got used to.”
They’re looking forward to their own future. Smith started meeting with the kids in the fall, but the new name is more recent.
Students have to meet certain benchmarks to stay in the program. That includes a 90% attendance record, and 2.0 GPA. Organizers say they’re also meeting with students to set goals to check in on in the future. If you want your child to get involved, the next round of sign-ups is next week.