WorkSMART Helping Youth Get Ahead

At age 14, Jaden wanted a job. He is the oldest in a single-parent family with two younger sisters, ages 11 and 5. His mom works in child care. They are on a tight budget and he wants to pay for what he needs and help out at home.

“It’s hard getting a job when you’re 14,” he said. “I emailed every place I could think of. No one responded. Then Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) called me and sent me an application for WorkSMART. I filled it out and brought it downtown to the ABCD Youth Services offices. Just like that, I was placed in a job!”

Jaden participated in WorkSMART orientation and reported to his new job in the afterschool program at ABCD Dorchester Neighborhood Service Center. He was one of three youth coordinators assisting DNSC staff with more than 20 school-age youngsters, helping them with homework, passing out snacks, providing activities every weekday from 3 – 6 p.m. He quickly learned to juggle school and work successfully.

“It was my first real job,” he said. “I got a pay check every two weeks. It felt great!”

A 9th grader at City on the Hill Charter Public School in Roxbury, Jaden plans to go to college. Because of his success in WorkSMART, he received priority placement in the sought-after ABCD SummerWorks jobs/education program for young people ages 14 – 21. Last summer he was a SummerWorks counselor at Paige Academy in Roxbury from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday – Friday, working with toddlers ages 1 – 2 years old.

How did he like caring for such young children? “It was great!” he said. “They were excited to see me every day and I liked playing with them, teaching them new things.”

Along with work experience, WorkSMART provides ongoing counseling, help with homework and workshops such as Financial Education. This year Jaden hopes to be placed in an office position. “I want to get a different kind of work experience,” he said.

ABCD WorkSMART is a support program encouraging inner-city teens to balance completing high school while gaining work experience in their desired field of study or professional  industry. The ABCD program collaborates with Boston Public Schools to help build and maintain a team of school and community members who are dedicated to providing effective year-round working and internship opportunities to disadvantaged youth.