School-to-Career Partnership Helps Youth in Transition

Posted April 1, 2004
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Jes­si­ca Cham­b­liss, who works with the School-to-Career Part­ner­ship pro­gram in New York City, remem­bers clear­ly the day Zales Jew­el­ry hired five young peo­ple from the pro­gram in a sin­gle day. They loved our kids’ ener­gy, their enthu­si­asm to work, their cloth­ing.” Young peo­ple come in one day in big bag­gy jeans and boots and we send them to Career Gear or Dress for Suc­cess and they come back look­ing as if they walked off a fash­ion run­way,” says Chambliss.

Career Gear and Dress for Suc­cess are two of many orga­ni­za­tions involved in the School-to-Career Part­ner­ship, a pro­gram spear­head­ed by UPS and the Casey Foun­da­tion in Bal­ti­more that has since spread to New York City, Oak­land, San Diego, San Anto­nio, Hart­ford, Prov­i­dence, and Port­land, Maine.

The pro­gram links UPS and oth­er large pri­vate-sec­tor employ­ers with com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions and human ser­vices agen­cies that form part­ner­ships to help pre­pare young peo­ple for inde­pen­dence as they age out of fos­ter care. Each young per­son has a career coach to assist with work and per­son­al issues and help him or her make long-term employ­ment plans. In 2003, more than 340 young peo­ple across the eight sites were placed in jobs earn­ing aver­age hourly wages of $7.92.

Cham­b­liss is the School-to-Career coor­di­na­tor for the New York Asso­ci­a­tion for New Amer­i­cans, the New York City grantee for the School-to-Career Part­ner­ship pro­gram. Orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed after World War II to help Holo­caust sur­vivors, the orga­ni­za­tion, which pro­vides a wide range of social and work­force ser­vices, has broad­ened its mis­sion to include gen­er­al immi­grant and dis­ad­van­taged pop­u­la­tions. Recent­ly, it expand­ed its employ­ment assis­tance and job readi­ness train­ing to serve at-risk youth.

Sab­ri­na Gaffney is one of more than 100 young peo­ple being served by the pro­gram. At 19, she faces one of the tough­est of chal­lenges: a crim­i­nal record. I know it was a mistake…I did my time and I haven’t been in trou­ble for two years and I don’t ever plan to do that again,” she says. Gaffney is extreme­ly moti­vat­ed because of her past trou­bles, notes her job readi­ness train­er, Deb­o­rah Brooks. She saw the option of stay­ing in the hole and want­ed to pull her­self out.”

Gaffney had been look­ing for a job with­out suc­cess for two years before she was direct­ed to the School-to-Career Part­ner­ship. Some­times I wouldn’t look because I knew I wouldn’t be hired.” Now, she believes, I can do this no mat­ter how long it takes. Peo­ple are behind me. When­ev­er I have an inter­view and don’t get hired, I call Deb­o­rah and she says Don’t wor­ry about it. We’ll get there.’ ”

I’m there as long as she needs me. Absolute­ly,” says Brooks. Gaffney’s crim­i­nal record makes her inel­i­gi­ble for many fed­er­al ben­e­fits, includ­ing some hous­ing options. I have to work hard­er than most peo­ple. It’s just me and my daugh­ter.” She recent­ly gave up an apart­ment she was shar­ing with a room­mate so she could move back into a fos­ter home and live with her 4‑year-old daugh­ter, who is a big source of inspi­ra­tion. I need to be out look­ing for a job every day so she doesn’t see me sit­ting at home all day doing nothing.”

Gaffney is intent on teach­ing her daugh­ter the impor­tance of patience. I didn’t have patience. When I was 16, I want­ed an apart­ment and I was try­ing to make mon­ey the wrong way. Now I know I should have waited.”

She’s espe­cial­ly appre­cia­tive of Brooks, who gives her the free­dom to speak open­ly and an aware­ness that she can have goals and there are options.“That helps give me confidence…I know now that if you do your part, every­thing will fall into place.”

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