WorkWell 2019 was, once again, an invaluable experience for everyone involved. For some, it was their first job, for others, it was their third year in their role. Everyone walked away with lessons learned, characters developed, and of course, some cash. Twenty-four youth workers (ages 14-16) were facilitated by 4 near peers (ages 20-24) overseen by their employers in 6-weeks of summer employment. The four jobs included farming, landscaping, athletic camp facilitation, and camp counseling. Each of the groups performed well at their jobs, and were able to accomplish all of their tasks. Not only that, but they learned to work as a team and grow as people, gaining skills, competency, and character. This program, which just completed its third year, has now provided dozens of young people their first job, the kind that has and will springboard them into future job opportunities.
WorkWell functions on a grant from Opportunity Now, Nashville’s youth employment initiative to provide young people in Davidson County with access to employment. According to Opportunity Now, WorkWell has one of the best programs in the city. In fact, we’ve been asked to help facilitate trainings for other programs in future years. Two of our near peers, Brianne Botzum (camp counselor facilitator) and Kennedy Dupois (farm hand facilitator), have participated in all three years. They’ve become a remarkable asset to the program, and to everyone who’s come through it. This year they were joined by Chelsie Waldron (athletic camp facilitator) and Ethan Harris (landscaping facilitator), who also did an outstanding job with their employees. Every morning before getting to work, they provided soft-skills training sessions for the employees. The sessions included numerous topics vital to being a good worker, such as verbal and nonverbal communication, professionalism, feedback, conflict resolution, leadership, self and project management, public speaking, resume building, and budgeting. The city has taken notice of WorkWell, and while they may not be able to tell what makes our program so special, we know. Our people love God and love their neighbor. That kind of love affects everything about how you approach a job and what you offer to those around you. It’s THE difference.
The youth employees themselves had great things to say about their experiences. Ty Benoit, a farmhand employee, shared, “I used to see feedback as negative criticism, but now I see it as constructive and character building.” Makayah Maddox, a sports camp facilitator, said the same, “I used to think feedback was a bad thing, but now I see it as something that helps better myself.” Another farmhand employee, Devon Thomas stated, “Feedback benefits you by teaching you different ways to do things, and it also helps you know what you’re great at, and what you need to work on.” How valuable to learn the benefits of feedback at a young age. On his experience as a whole, Albert, a junior camp counselor, said, “I’ve learned so much. Not just with the skills you all talk about in the morning meetings, but by being around you all working. It’s made me a better at my other job at McDonald's. Thank you so much.” Brilee, another farmhand, said, “My most impactful moments have been the small lessons Ms. Kennedy has given me. She’s taught me not to lose my humanity by excluding others or cutting them down. She makes me a better person.” Other employees spoke of the power of encouragement from family, friends and other coworkers in the workplace, and also the joy on the other side of pushing through stressful situations and elements like heat in order to execute your work. These are real-life job opportunities, performing real tasks that need to be done efficiently and effectively, and without losing your soul. Such great work!
We also got to hear from some of the parents of the youth employees. They too were impacted by their children’s experiences, so much so that we thought you should read a few of their reflections for yourselves. Rejoice with us for what’s been accomplished this summer!
“This was Jonah's third year participating in WorkWell. This year in particular he did exceedingly well in working hard, and he felt more empowered to be an example to others. He worked in landscaping which can be pretty taxing, especially in the heat. I’m not sure that if he had just begun the program, he would have been as much of a ‘leader’ as he was. This shows me that the program has taught him a lot regarding teamwork and becoming a good example of what it means to work hard and follow instruction. I love the hours that he worked because it gave me plenty of time at home with him, but also kept him from sitting around all day being unproductive. I think it is a really good balance. Along with all of that, he has way more money in the bank than I ever expected my 16-year-old to have.”
“This summer was our first experience with WorkWell. From beginning to end, the program made such a positive impact on my son, Leif. Even though it was physically challenging to be outside in the heat, my son was always glad to go to work. I attribute this to the atmosphere of encouragement and camaraderie with his boss and coworkers. This summer seems to be a real turning point in his maturity level. At home, Leif is making decisions to pour into his younger brothers, rather than putting his own needs first. We’re so grateful for this program and will, most assuredly, be coming back next year.”
This was Ty’s first year at WorkWell and his first job. I love that he was taught valuable lessons about working a real job, like how to take honest feedback from a boss and implement it in his work, how to solve conflicts in the workplace, and how to make and follow a plan of action. He used to break down in tears when corrected or given feedback of any kind, so when I found out he was able to take feedback from his boss at WorkWell and implement it, I was so proud of him. The growth he had over the summer in that area was huge. He implemented feedback every week and even got up in front of his work peers to speak, which is something he’s always been uncomfortable doing. It was all so impactful for Ty; he came home every day excitedly talking about all the new skills he was learning. He was happy to go to work and didn’t want it to end. This program is such a blessing for young people. The skills he acquired are critical to being successful in the workplace and in life. What excited me the most was that he had the opportunity to participate in this program through G.O.D. Int’l and learn these lessons from people who love the Lord and live their lives according to his Word. As a parent who’s teaching my child to build his life on the foundation of Christ, I’m always thankful when I know the people influencing him are doing the same. I’m so proud of all the personal growth he had this summer, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the people that poured into him to help him achieve this.