I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Other Way Ministries’ Youth Employment Service (YES) Program. I took this out-of-office opportunity to lace up my shoes, slip on my gloves and get to work. It was a cool, agreeable summer morning, and the 13 youth employees, along with their two supervisors, Seth Hamrick and Kelli Kortman, were all eager to complete the tasks of the day.
They started off by loading up vehicles with the necessary equipment and then we were off! I headed to a couple homes where YES employees mowed and trimmed the lawns. Next we weeded along the Grand River Edges Trail between 6thStreet Bridge Park and Canal Street Park, where they had previously planted flowers. It was a beautiful stretch of land and trail to take in the view of the river, greet friendly passers-by and shiver a bit in the cool summer breeze. The kids worked hard to make the flower beds look beautiful and eye-catching once again.
In addition to the actual work experiences, these youth employees are gaining so much more through the YES Program. Javier Zavala, 15, said, “We just went to a bank and they’re teaching us how to save our money for things like emergencies and college funds.” Tatyanna Joiner, 16, added, “I learn respect and self-control; things to build your confidence and make you a better person, and at the same time make others a better person.”
Many of the youth in the West Side area have not experienced life outside their neighborhoods. This program seeks to give them enriching experiences that will spark interest and passion in something to spur them on to a bright future. The program brings in speakers from various careers “to show them people who find deep meaning in their work,” said Seth, who hopes that they too will find meaning and success in their futures. Each student in the program participated in mock interviews with Chemical bank and a speaker came from Grand Rapids Community College to talk about post-high school education and career paths. They visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum and did outdoors adventure activities at Camp Roger. As Kelli told me, “The hope is that with each new experience and the work skills gained from having a job, we can empower them to reach further.”