1. What aspect of your program/organization's work makes you most proud and why?
One of the greatest aspects of UTEC is that our staff are very passionate about the work that they do with our youth. They are dedicated to helping youth reach developmental, educational, and employment outcomes. We give youth multiple chances and do not permanently remove youth from our program. We are committed to working with youth who are often considered the hardest to engage, and we know that they will need time to acclimate themselves to a structured environment and that success in the program may come after they make many mistakes. We work with the whole individual, addressing barriers such as substance abuse, housing instability, legal obstacles, and learning needs that oftentimes make a transition to a healthy and successful adulthood difficult.
2. Why did you choose to join the Peer Performance Exchange?
We are eager to learn with and from other programs. Few structured opportunities exist for practitioners to come together and discuss their work and learn from one another. We are also excited to work closely with Root Cause to better understand our program and impact.
3. What's the key thing your organization is focused on today to improve the outcomes for the young people you serve?
We are focusing specifically on two programmatic components: 1) the development of a financial literacy curriculum so that youth are able to handle the increased financial responsibility that comes along with increased employability and 2) continuing to refine the end stage of the program where we prepare youth for external internships and permanent employment after they have spent several months (and usually1-2 years) in our in-house social enterprises. We have made significant progress in the latter since the beginning of 2013, particularly through the hiring of the Manager of Corporate Partnerships and Job Development. We are working to codify the curriculum and provide specific experiences that will best prepare youth in their transition from UTEC to an employer.
4. What is one fact/piece of data/etc you think the public (or funders) need to better understand about the young people you serve/youth career development?
In our organization we work with proven-risk youth. We would like the public to understand that substantial and sustainable change can take a long time for our young people to achieve. They have spent years in systems and institutions that have not always intensively worked with them to address the barriers that can make educational and job success so elusive and develop the assets that make such success possible. Disconnected young people need more than just education and job training programs; they need a full set of social experiences that allow them to see different aspects of the world and their community, adults who will advocate on their behalf, programs that focus on intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, and opportunities to develop their self-advocacy skills so that they can persist on a prosocial path when challenges could very well obstruct tha