Youth Success Stories From Fall Season
Looking back on 2021, it was another challenging year for so many as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbed and surged. Youth experienced mental health stress due to prolonged social distancing and low-income families were squeezed financially between under-employment and more recently, rising inflation.
We were happy to be part of the solution by offering four types of paid Green Jobs Internships to teenagers this fall. Overall, Interns showed significant improvements in communication, work ethic, stamina, responsibility, and focus. The Trailblazers focused on rebuilding two sets of steps in West Rock neighborhoods: one which was a natural log construction and one made of cement. Internship Coordinator, Harry Jones, described how a couple of particular Trailblazer Interns impressed him the most:
Previously, Sammy was too young to join the Trailblazers team and finally reached an age where he could participate. In the beginning, he seemed distant, quiet and not comfortable in social situations. Over the season as Sammy grew more comfortable with the team and the work, he turned into one of the best workers we had! He did not hesitate to take the lead on many projects and even took initiative to teach his peers how to use certain tools and came to their aid when they were stuck. It has been wonderful to watch him take on greater responsibilities and become an integral member of the team. Sammy tells us that the income he earned as a Solar Youth Trailblazer helped contribute to his family's income. This season he bought his mother new tires. What an amazing young man!
Donte, age 17, was new to the Trailblazers team this season. He started out with a bit of an attitude toward other Interns, and especially toward authority. This is why our Coordinator was surprised that Donte proved to be of the hardest workers on the team. He demonstrated an amazing work ethic and even his attitude showed improvement by the end.
Teenagers join the Trailblazers team for different reasons. Even though they are not necessarily friends with one another, the experience helps them develop a type of bond that extends beyond the program. For example, outside of the program they will accompany each other to drop off a sibling and have been known to support each other in the face of bullying.
The Trailblazers also helped out with our Steward Program this season, serving as role models and leaders during full-day events such as the Veterans Day Cleanup and the Fall Costume Party. In fact, based on these experiences, a few of them have shown interest in becoming Youth Educator Interns in the future. We hope their enthusiasm leads to future seasons with Solar Youth!