The program got Destane Pope-White's foot in the door and now it has turned into a full-time, permanent job.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Destane Pope-White felt it was better to just do something rather than wait.
She was applying for jobs but not having much luck. She decided to enter the Youth Works program through MassHire Berkshire Career Center. The program is state-funded pays the wages for youth to work in various local companies. Pope-White ended up working for Jae's Spice this summer.
"I was a little discouraged. I was job searching and couldn't find anything. It took me to get into a program to be making some money again. I thought at least I am doing something, I'm not just sitting around waiting," Pope-White said. "This has helped me a lot. It got me a permanent job."
Jae's isn't going to let her go. The program helped create a path to meaningful employment for her and it is foundation for a total of 46 area youth who worked through 23 different companies. The program provides 125 hours of employment.
"Each worksite created quality jobs and provided appropriate tasks to help participants acquire new skills," said Youth Program Coordinator Kelly Groves-Skrocki.
The program is intended to provide coaching and mentorship to help young people take the first step in their careers. It has been ongoing in Pittsfield for 15 years, and for the last six Guardian Life Insurance has contributed.
"To date, Pittsfield has provided over 600 youth with employment opportunities through this program," Groves-Skrocki said.
On Friday, those in the program were honored for their summer efforts. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said the honor is deserved because not everyone was accepted into the program and not everyone completed it.
"That is our gift to you, that strong, first, sturdy step," Farley-Bouvier said.
Farley-Bouvier said each one of the graduates one day will be employers or supervisors and she called on them to provide the same support to future generations. She asked them to take on the responsibility of helping other youths get their starts.
"This step that has been built for you is that first step on a career ladder," Farley-Bouvier said. "When you have a stable foundation in a work, career path, then that path is so much easier."
Mayor Linda Tyer presented each of the graduates with certificates in City Council chambers Friday to honor the occasion. The event included testimonials from employers and past and current participants praising the program.
Daniela Herrera was one of those speakers whose involvement with MassHire Berkshire Career Center extended beyond that first job. Herrera wasn't able to finish high school as she was taking care of her grandmother who had cancer. At the age of 20, she was struggling to find a job because of that lack of a diploma when her mother suggested MassHire.
Herrera said the organization helped get her into and complete her high school equivalency, then helped her with resume building, and she ended up being hired by Berkshire Medical Center. And it didn't end there. She went back to MassHire to help her apply to college and she's been accepted to BYU.
After a decade of success in Pittsfield, the state provided funding to expand the program in North Adams. Last week, MassHire recognized the efforts of 11 youth who participated in the North Adams program.