Program plants career seeds for at-risk youth

YES program participants - Courtesy photo
YES program participants
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By Tricia Schug, Community relations manager, Multi-Service Center

On July 1, Multi-Service Center (MSC) recognized the hard work and determination of local youth who have finished their GED and/or completed successful internships in area businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The event was held at the EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center and included a barbecue dinner and raffle prizes for participants. The event also featured two youth speakers, Faasoo Lelea and Maria White, as well as the recognition of 22 additional youth who live in Federal Way. The students are participants in Multi-Service Center’s Youth Education and Employment Services program (YES).

The YES program provides at-risk youth with education and employment services designed to help them achieve long-term self-sufficiency through career pathway planning, customized training for employment and educational attainment. YES partners with local organizations such as Highline Community College, Valley Cities Counseling, Orion Industries, EX3 Teen Center and Tacoma Goodwill Industries’ Youthbuild program to ensure that youth have the resources necessary for success. The cornerstone of YES is the paid internship, in which youth are placed in internships, at no cost to the business, to develop employment skills and on-the-job training. Each participant works an average of 10 to 20 hours a week for a total of 160 hours maximum.

Lelea, a student at Federal Way High School, has been enrolled in the YES program since last March, working on job skills training and exploring career options. She spoke at the event about her experiences in the YES program.

“I thought this was just a program to help me get a job, but it’s been more than that,” she said. “I’ve always been iffy about trusting adults. I feel a lot of adults don’t hear us out, but Vaneza, my case manager, has been great and has helped me in many ways.”

White had attended Federal Way High School, but lacked the credits needed to graduate. Rather than continuing in high school, she opted to pursue a GED through Multi-Service Center, a move she felt better fit her current life situation. Now, she’s well on her way to completing her GED process and begins an internship this summer. She said of the program, “It keeps me on a good schedule…and out of trouble.”

Youth participants were honored for their dedication and follow-through in the YES program, some having just started the program, while others had already completed successful internships and GED tests. The goal of the event was both to honor participants’ achievements while also encouraging them to continue forward despite roadblocks.

“It is an important component of YES to celebrate these participants’ demonstrated commitment and responsibilities,” said Robin Corak, MSC’s education and employment director. “Many of them have not had easy roads to get where they are today, and we honor the achievements they’re making now to lead them in new directions.”

Since May 2008, 75 youth from throughout South King County have been served by the program.

Services for the youth provided by Multi-Service Center have been funded through United Way and through the Department of Labor as part of the Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council’s Building Futures program in partnership with Youthsource, Youthcare and King County Superior Courts. As part of the King County Work Training Program consortium, MSC has expanded its YES! program to include Workforce Investment Act funded summer employment opportunities for youth ages 16-21.

Tricia Schug, community relations manager for Multi-Service Center, can be reached at or (253) 835-7678, Ext. 104.

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