The purpose of this program is to assist at-risk youth in increasing their basic skills, employability, and leadership development while reducing the barriers to their success. Services include: attainment of basic academic skills, leadership development, barrier reduction, hands-on work experience and workforce preparedness, employment services and assistance. Additionally, the community will benefit from the renovation and construction projects undertaken by at-risk youth.

YouthWorks-Restoration short overview…click on the blue for pictures of our work!

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Participant Comments:

“Keep the teamwork- that was key!”

“The best experience is the training. I love the program so much, that it just may be my career choice.”  

“The changes to the house change the whole neighborhood-I hope this project continues!”

“I will tell my friends this is a good program and it will help you out a lot.

Youth must be age 16 through 24 and a high school dropout or potential dropout; at risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system, or disabled, homeless, teen parent, or a recipient of public-assistance. Trainees accepted into the program must be currently enrolled in an Employment or Educational Training Program.

Description of Program

The YouthWorks Program is two fold: 1) trainees receive educational coursework towards the successful attainment of their GED and barriers reduction services; 2) trainees receive certification and hands-on training in construction and restoration.

Construction Tech training will occur at a local property for the hands-on training component. The worksite will be supervised by a certified Construction Mentor with assistance from the Program Coordinator. Educational training will be completed by certified teachers and occur at various locations. Program Trainees will be recruited through local employment and education programs. Trainees will include high risk youth from 16 to 24 years of age. Trainee applicants will be assessed for aptitude for the program and to determine their educational needs. Additional testing, personality reviews and drug screening will be completed as part of the acceptance pre-requisites. Applicants, who have successfully completed the application process, will be selected for enrollment.
The YouthWorks Program administration will be based in the Winter Center office located at  904 S. Walnut Street in Ottawa. Other functions will occur in at local ‘pod’ sites. Trainees will complete the program after 80 hours and will take CASAS testing for construction and educational assessment. Additionally IDAs ( Individual Development Accounts) will be utilized to encourage the savings efforts of the participants. There will be $1 deposited for every hour worked and a 1:1 match of this deposit in said account. Funds will be released to each trainee upon successful completion with the stipulation that these funds be used for the purpose of continuing education, new home ownership or self employment.

Post-Program Placement

Once a participant has successfully completed both phases of the program, they will be referred to YouthWorks: Professional Division for continuing short term and/or long term construction/restoration opportunities or with other non-profit partners for short term employment and/or long term job placement assistance.

Program Specifics

The enrollment will consist of a 3 week cycle of 80 hours of barrier reduction/job-success training, educational training and ‘hands-on’ construction experience (supervised by certified professionals).  Additional work will involve apartment maintenance.

The Barrier Reduction program will target the following areas:

General Transportation                        Legal Issues
Child Care                                          ADD/AHD
Illness or illness of child                       Learning Disorders
Lack of health insurance                       Medication(s) needed
Housing issues                                     Head Lice
Utility assistance                                  Issues with child’s other parent
Lack of food                                        Domestic violence in the home
Lack of clothing                                   Divorce or separation issues
Alcohol and drug issues                        Family member with serious illness
Pregnancy                                            Recent loss of family member
Dental issues                                        Problems in relationship with family
Optical issues                                       Problems in relationship with partner

Transportation, counseling and solution assistance will be provided by the Winter Center and other local agency partners.

 Some History…Our First YouthWorks Program           

  A Partnership with Let’s Help, Inc. of Topeka, Kansas.


Over 500 Hours of Training Completed by Participants

2 job placement/internships garnered

1 participant successfully completed GED testing

2 participants successfully completed applied construction testing, problem solving and critical thinking testing (CASAS)

In the Spring of 2005, Winter Center and Let’s Help partnered to pilot a youth development, work-study program called YouthWorks. At-risk youth were given the opportunity to work toward their GED while also gaining hands on experience in residential restoration.

Six youth entered the program on March 28th and by June two youth had completed the program and gained their GED or employment. The group was diverse, including a broad age range (the youngest was 21), cultural and racial differences, varied levels of experience, and persons with disabilities (learning and physical).

After initial applications were received, pre-employment drug screening and orientation was provided for accepted applicants. Accepted participants got right to work and began learning the basics of restoration. Tasks included landscaping, interior painting and some exterior painting, general maintenance, light electrical and carpentry work. Moreover, participants gained the experience of working with a team, reporting to a supervisor and meeting standard employment expectations.

Rodney Seitz led the restoration crew with his restoration expertise and mentored the participants by providing training for the day to day projects. Participants expressed gratitude at the end of the program for Mr. Seitz’s patience and willingness to answer however many questions they could think of! Linda Myrick of Let’s Help Facilities Maintenance Department was on hand to assist with supervision and motivation!

During the education phase of the program participants worked with a local banking professional at Fidelity Bank to gain an understanding of the banking system and personal finance maintenance. Fidelity Bank supported the program through providing this training and also by providing free checking accounts for participants. While participants were not issued checks, these accounts functioned as a way for participants to gain access and experience with the banking system. Additionally, the education phase included the development of math, reading and writing skills focused around the creation of bids and contracts for restoration projects. In this way, the hands-on experience acted as a reference point for classroom education, from fractions and percentages to reading and writing comprehension.

This is a special savings account where the hours worked by participants are matched by local donors. The total funds are then available to eligible participants completing the program. Funds are released to each trainee upon successful completion with the stipulation that these funds be used for the purpose of continuing education, new home ownership or self employment.