“When I first started the job, I wanted to quit. But when it was over, I looked back and said ‘I did that,’” said Edmund Jackson.
The Petersburg High School recent graduate spent his final summer before college working outside in 90-degree temperatures, pulling weeds and sowing seeds at the Think Then Choose Wisely urban farm in Petersburg. The farm is one of eight Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia employment partners involved in the Youth in Petersburg (YIP) program.
“Goodwill said a summer work experience would help us venture into the real world, and they were right,” Jackson said.
Goodwill first collaborated with YIP in 2013 with support from the Cameron Foundation to create summer youth work experiences for Petersburg High School juniors and seniors as well as the GED population at Blandford Academy. The program encompasses in-school career development support and a paid summer work experience. The United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg has funded YIP since 2015.
“This is just one of many programs that Goodwill provides to teach the soft skills and job readiness skills that employers want,” said Paula Jones-Jackson, manager of Goodwill’s Petersburg community employment center.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 41% of children up to age 17 living in Petersburg are in poverty. “Petersburg has many barriers to employment, so we want to get youth interested in the workforce as early as possible,” said Silyka Moore, career specialist at Goodwill’s Petersburg Community Employment Center. One of her tasks is giving YIP participants a semi-annual career assessment. “Their interests differ from the start of the school year to the summer. The assessment helps us effectively place them for summer work,” said Moore.
Keisuan Smith, an incoming senior at Petersburg High School, learned more than computer skills during his summer work experience at the Petersburg Freedom Support Center. “Not only did I get experience for my resume, I also worked on my communication skills, which is important in an office environment,” he said.
Goodwill incorporates resume building, job fair networking and workplace professionalism with the YIP program during the school year. “These skills aren’t taught in class. It’s important for students to learn them when you’re young so they know how to market themselves properly when they start looking for work,” said Moore.
She encourages more schools to work with Goodwill for youth jobs programs. “Watching these students become successful is rewarding. All of our participants are either going to college, in the military or headed straight to the workforce. Goodwill can truly change lives.”