STYLE: Teens learning about world of work

By Ronald MacArthur

The boss walked in and told part of her staff that a topnotch Powerpoint presentation was needed to give an update on a project to the board of directors. It had to be done in less than five days. That scenario takes place in the business world on a daily basis. But you wouldn’t expect that sort of discussion to take place between the director of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club and a group of teen-agers. That’s exactly what did transpire last week as the STYLE group at the club was mobilized into action to make a presentation to the club’s board on July 23. Ever since the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club opened its doors seven years ago on Virginia Avenue, the staff has searched for a way to reach teens during the summer months. During the summer, the club is open to youth ages 6-12 as part of the Summer Fun Club. In the past, programs for teens have been tried with mixed reviews. According to Peggy Geisler, executive director of the club, this summer a new program, STYLE (Summer Teen Youth Leadership Experience) has been so successful that it will continue into the school year with “Seaford” replacing the word “Summer.” Geisler said the pilot project was offered at the start of summer programming to 10 teens aged 14-18. Currently, 14 are taking part in the program. Those who qualified for the program were taken in under a scholarship program. Geisler said that the heart of the program is tied to developing work skills. “You can’t help but notice how poor customer service is,” she said. “And it’s difficult for businesses in the area to find good workers. There is a tremendous need for youth to be trained in good work-related skills. “The Boys & Girls Club is trying to do just that,” she added. “They can apply what they learn in their professional and personal life.”
And in reference to the board presentation, she said it was important that the group get a small taste of the real world. “This is what it would be like working for a company - it’s some real life experience for them,” she said. Ty Matthews, a Seaford High graduate and a former member of the club, is the coordinator of the STYLE program. “I really have learned a lot about the work environment, work ethics and have improved my communication skills,” said Willshira Richards, a participant in the STYLE program. “We don’t really learn this in school and most kids don’t learn it at home either. This is really going to help me when I look for a job,” she added. Teens in the program come to the club Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They help the summer staff with programming as well as attend field trips. They also work on interview skills, resume writing, work ethics, job searching, presentations and they have weekly guest speakers from area businesses. Geisler said that Dan Short of Short Insurance in Seaford was a recent speaker. He talked to the teens about time management and technology in today’s business world. The teens also take business-education -related field trips. They took a recent tour of the Johnny Janosik complex in Laurel and each teen was presented with a copy of Janosik’s book, “The Johnny Janosik Story.” Geisler said that the teens are reading the book as part of their programming. She said that each teen has a weekly review and feedback is provided on a regular basis. “The teens in the program are extremely excited,” Geisler said. “So many wanted to be in it, we had to expand the program. It’s our hope that we can establish some partnerships with local businesses who will be more likely to hire the teens because they have good work ethics - they will be good first-time workers.”

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