Leadership program put teens on track for summer jobs

Recent Wyoming High School graduate Zayveon Hymon and sophomore Xavier Bailey are spending 20 hours a week this summer working on various repair and maintenance projects (courtesy photo)

Zayveon Hymon and Xavier Bailey are spending the summer as construction crew members, working on minor repairs, major projects and gaining valuable experience to carry with them as they move on to college and careers.

They are learning and using the tools of the trade 20 hours a week and building their résumés with Dale Cross, owner of Wyoming-based Sarge Construction.

“We fix up anything that’s broken,” Zayveon said. “I feel like I could fix a whole house.”

Summertime Journal is a School News Network series highlighting the summer jobs, volunteer work and adventures of area teachers and students.  

Sophomore Xavier Bailey works on a screen during his job with Sarge Construction (courtesy photo)

Along with developing on-the-job work skills, Zayveon, who graduated from Wyoming High School in May and Xavier, a sophomore, are using what they’ve learned through Teen Outreach — a leadership program they attended all school year at Wyoming High School — in real employment.

Teen Outreach, which meets weekly during the school year, has three components: life-skills development; job placement and community service. Julian Goodson, youth development specialist for Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, a program through Bethany Christian Services, has taught the class since 2013.

Job placement is a major incentive for getting students to attend, Goodson said.

“The summer job component was the hook. All the other stuff is what they are getting out of it: the ability to learn how to network, public speak. When they came in here they might not have had any experience, but now they have three or four things to put on their résumé.”

Teen Outreach extends into the Summer Youth Employment Program, which connects students to summer jobs. Students are also working at Goodwill Industries, Bethany Christian Services and Wyoming Public Schools. While they said their primary goal is to earn money, they concede that having work, community service and school experience is a huge deal too.

“It gives me money, and it gives me experience for future jobs so I can make more money,” said Cecilia Medina, a Wyoming Middle College student who just completed her senior year in high school and is working at Goodwill this summer. She said she’s learned about professional behavior and expectations, and brings those with her to her job.

Xavier Bailey moves soil (courtesy photo)

Show up, Do the Work, Keep your Future in Mind

Zayveon, who graduated in May and is attending Olivet Nazarene University in the fall, said he’s learned public speaking and how to meet expectations in the workforce through Teen Outreach, and by working with Cross.

“The job seems like the golden ticket for the class,” Zayveon said. “The job is a plus, but you learn way more than that.”

The Wyoming students also completed a community service project in early June tied to jobs and careers. They hosted a career day at Madison Place in Grand Rapids with representatives from several companies and career fields who networked with students involved in other Teen Outreach programs.

Cross said Zayveon and Xavier are gaining a lot of hands-on experience working with him. They start each day by picking up materials at hardware stores, and then are off to different sites to help with city inspections, work on plumbing and electrical, even repair decking and foundations. They will develop a sense of areas they could specialize in, Cross said.

Zaveon said he plans to study business management and accounting, and eventually own a contracting or construction business.

The students are good workers, Cross said, always asking what they can do next and lending a helping hand.

Those are skills they’ve learned by practicing them: show up, do the work and keep your future in mind, Zayveon said.

“We step up. That’s what we do.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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