Monday, April 27, 2015

Youth Voice: A Perspective on Hiring Young People in Afterschool Programs

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

One important way of affecting afterschool quality and its attractiveness to young people is to engage older youth and program alumni in the operation of the program. There are multiple benefits - both to the program and the young adults who are engaged as leaders or hired as staff. 

Who would know better about the benefits of hiring youth and program alumni than the young people who were granted this employment opportunity? Below are some of their statements regarding their experiences. 

Lorena Retano, Program Alumni, Youth Institute

Lorena Retano, Age 18
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Being a Youth Institute alumnus is probably one of the best things I’ve experienced. I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple jobs teaching kids, younger than me, how to use movie and photograph editing software. The best example I have for what I experienced when being hired to work in an afterschool program was when I went to Richmond two summers ago to go teach iMovie, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. A team of three other people and myself spent about six hours a day teaching kids in middle school and high school how to use the different software. It was really exciting to share my knowledge with other people.

To work in an afterschool program you need to have confidence in what you are doing with your students so that you are not only successful but so that your students respect you. Supporting youth and program alumni in practicing different skills is definitely a great way to develop that confidence.

David Montoya, Age 20
arc Program Alumni

David Montoya, Program Alumni, arc 
I was a student of the after school program for 4 years. After I graduated, the program offered me a job. It was a great opportunity since I was pretty familiar with the program - I knew what was going on and what needed to happen. At the beginning, it was a bit weird since I went from being a student to a staff. The staff was very supportive, the students saw me as their friend. It took me a while to set myself aside from them and to build a line and to show them that I am a staff now.

Being hired allowed me to go to school, have a job, and do something that I love. I brought everything that I knew about the after school program. As a student participant, I gained leadership skills, which I used in my community, and most importantly at my school.

I think when people think of young adults they think of people who have no experience, who don’t know what they’re doing. But I think we are capable of taking on bigger responsibilities. We just need someone that would trust us and give us a chance.

Skhy Felder, Age 17
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Skhy Felder, Program Alumni, Youth Institute
Employing program alumni gives them the opportunity to grow and gives them the feeling of being an adult. They understand the younger youth better because they, in a way, know the struggle they go through.

From this experience, I have an advantage for future jobs. I can’t wait to be a full staff member, give back to the youth and give them my knowledge. I want to be that staff that a youth would say, "I remember when so and so helped me through this".

Jon Cabral, Age 18
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Jon Cabral, Program Alumni, Youth Institute 
The addition of older youth and program alumni into the team of afterschool professionals greatly affects the dynamic of the experience for both youth and staff alike. Working this past summer as technical instructor after finishing my third year as a high school program alumni student, it shifted from being the student inspired by mentors to the mentor inspiring students. Having been with the YMCA and its branches since sixth grade and having grown up with the program, I’ve definitely benefitted from having a young, relatable staff person, which I saw as my older sibling. Largely of who I am today is a result of the many young mentors I have had through the YMCA.

My responsibilities range from afterschool tutor assisting in homework questions and project help, to a mentor lending advice - a hand for help, a shoulder to cry on, or whatever else an adolescent teenager navigating through middle and high school would need. 

Coming back and being able to give back to the program that helped me grow gives me the gift of now being the person I needed when I was young. This job equipped me with technical, child development, and professional skill sets and provided me with advantages leading to my being a well-rounded person and professional.

Adriana Zuniga, Age 17
Youth Institute Program Alumni
Adriana Zuniga, Program Alumni, Youth Institute
While working as an intern for the program, I experienced many benefits. I was able to get hands-on training from the staff and also teach younger kids the basics of computer literacy and camera functions. It gave me a chance to learn technological skills and help develop my social skills. Having been involved with the program for four years, I already know how the program runs, what is expected and how to do certain things that incoming interns are not familiar with yet. Because I already have experience, I can lead my own group of people on projects or inform them on how to use a Canon camera or edit a photograph on Photoshop.

David Molina, Program Alumni, A World Fit For Kids! 
David Molina, Age 27
WFIT Program Alumni
I am an alumnus from A World Fit For Kids! Mentors In Motion (MIM) program at Belmont High School. I was a part of the program for 3 years. The Assistant Coach position was my first job that I held and I began to do it when I was 15 years old. The position was the dip of my toe in the water that is the real world. This position provided me my first professional experience that I ever had; it was a great learning platform.

When I graduated high school, I was fortunate enough to be asked to coach soccer at Lawrence Middle School, while I attended California State University Northridge. I was able to bring my 3 years of experience into the fields right off the bat. I knew the high standard of performance I had to deliver to the kids that I coached.

The wealth of knowledge that I gained was immense from the time I was a MIM. I always felt that the MIM program is a great resource to groom future coaches because the lessons taught are specific to the afterschool program and their expectations. These types of positions are usually entry level positions and they are usually a stepping stone to students’ eventual careers.

Jacob Reyes, Age 21
arc Program Alumni
Jacob Reyes, Program Alumni, arc
The impact we have made is amazing. Hiring older youth helps communicate more with the students because we know how it is to be a student, we understand their feelings, and we can help them in the best possible way that we can.

I think that hiring program alumni is an important practice because the communications between alumni and students are close and more responsive. Students can go up to us and talk. They don't have to fear oppression of what a teacher or an adult might give them. They feel a sense of trust in us, which is good for a student.

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