How Goodwill of Southern Arizona is Re-engaging Youth in School and Work
Tucson, AZ | Submitted by Lance Meeks
In Pima County today, 12 percent of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither working nor going to school. These “opportunity youth” are facing everything from food insecurity to homelessness, addiction and family problems. But to be successful in the future, the team at Goodwill of Southern Arizona understands that a little guidance and support can go a long way. Goodwill operates two youth re-engagement centers specifically aimed at working with young people who are in need of obtaining their educational goals, employment training, and connections to community resources to get them back on track to meet their goals.
To make it all possible, the specially trained staff of four, with the assistance of community volunteers, work one-on-one with youth to identify the stumbling blocks and how best to conquer them. Accessing many community services or getting back into the classroom after time away would otherwise be too intimidating. Goodwill opened its first youth re-engagement center, METRO, located at 300 N. 4th Avenue, in 2014. Goodwill acquired space for the second center, The REC, located at 1037 E. 34th Street, in 2017. The four primary areas of focus for youth ages 14-24 at the centers are:
Employment: Youth have access to computers in order to search for and apply for jobs. Staff members assist youth with job readiness skills, creating a resume, and practicing interview skills. Incentives are also provided for youth who obtain jobs.
Academics: The center’s academic coordinator and adult volunteers assist youth with connecting to appropriate educational programs, earning their GED, and identifying the best path to achieve any other goals they might have. Incentives are also provided for youth who obtain their GED, as well as helping youth pay for their GED exams.
Community resources: Staff assist opportunity youth with making connections with agencies and organizations in the community that can help them identify and access services, ranging from housing to mental health services. Each month, an event called 2nd Tuesdays is hosted to streamline the process of intakes, case management, provide individual mental health services, AHCCCS screening, assist with Nutrition Assistance applications, and connect with community resources. This event is a collaboration between Goodwill of Southern Arizona, CODAC Behavioral Health, and PPEP Integrated Care.
Community Service: Youth are also referred from the Pima County Juvenile Court in order to complete court their court ordered community service. Youth will complete a community service training and then they’re able to complete their community service at the Fourth Avenue Goodwill Retail Store.
These two centers also receive funding and support from Goodwill of Southern Arizona, City of Tucson, United Way of Southern Arizona and Tucson, and from the African-American Initiative Grant through a program of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Other events such as Empowerment Series, Job Fairs, Resource Fairs, and Prevention Workshops are provided at these two centers.