By Sara Smola
Just because the holiday season is behind us, there’s no reason to do away with good deeds. Pasadena’s Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services keeps the selfless spirit going year-round with its dedication to nurturing hope, healing, and the opportunity to thrive for children, young adults, and families facing serious life challenges. Currently more than 12,000 are assisted annually through a variety of supportive services including the vocational internship program (VIP) for young adults.
VIP has been part of the nonprofit’s transition-age youth programming for more than 10 years now, during which time the organization has served thousands of young adults. VIP covers workforce skill building—individualized employment skills training in a variety of areas, such as job searching, résumé building, interview preparation, workplace communication, and problem solving. There are also opportunities for participants to practice in a real employment setting through internships obtained via the program.
“We believe that the opportunity to practice in a real setting is the most valuable aspect in the employment skill building and development process,” says Samuel G. Gonzalez, assistant vice president of clinical programs at Hathaway-Sycamores.
“Many of our youth have not had the early childhood employment experiences that we absorb to prime our occupational development into early adulthood. Our program tries to close this learning gap while building up employment confidence and increased financial stability,” Gonzalez says. “The program provides kids who normally would not have this opportunity or support, a setting to learn skills that give them a chance to find stable work—kids who, without these skills, might jump from job to job and end up homeless.”
One of the main objectives of VIP is to prevent homelessness among young adults in Los Angeles County—“the fastest-growing homeless population,” according to Gonzalez. The transitional program allows young adults to learn to live independently with the freedom to make mistakes without the risk of losing their housing.
“We had a young woman who started in our program when she was 18, after aging out of the foster system,” Gonzalez says. “When she started [the program], she had no job experience or job skills. She started out with some challenges, such as not communicating well and having difficulty managing her frustration. But her team helped her work through these challenges and she slowly started to get into the swing of working, managing her time, and developing job skills such as strong customer service. After she completed her first six-month internship at a café, [she] started college and the owner of the café offered her a position. Three years later, she is still working toward her college goals and is currently the head manager of the very café that provided her an opportunity to practice.”