EcoYouth For promising young people, an introduction to the real world.

The Gazette, Sept. 11, 1999
Each year, students from area high schools with a need for job training are given the opportunity to meet the real world, up close. For some, it is a chance to gain job experience and make some money. For others, it is a flexible environment to gain the basic skills they’ll need to hold down a job. EcoYouth offers these tools to any student with . no reservations, only optimism.

At EcoYouth, students participate in a number of projects in addition to a mentoring program, which allows enrollees to experience the day-to-day realities of job performance.

One job, which can be dirty but necessary, is nuisance abatement. EcoYouth is contracted by the Linn County Health Department to take care of hazards and keep Cedar Rapids free and clear of unhealthy situations. Says Tom Hart, Director of the Linn County Health Department and member of the EcoYouth Policy Council, “We look on EcoYouth as an extension of our effort from picking up trash and refuse to clearing out old tires that breed mosquitoes as well as alerting landlords to potential problems. EcoYouth is one of the things going right with youth today.”

Mentoring programs. In the mentoring programs, enrollees learn the ways of the business world, setting goals for themselves and learning to deal productively with fellow workers, suppliers and the general public. If an enrollee is interested in construction, they’ll be paired with one of MAHP’s building supervisors to gain a first-hand perspective of what it takes to construct a house – start to finish. If they are interested in finance, they might get a chance to crunch numbers and learn the ropes of accounting.

While in the mentoring pro­ gram, their activities are carefully monitored by an EcoYouth coordinator who guides them in goal setting and weekly planning. Group and individual discussions are used to assess an enrollee’s progress. The disciplines and work habits learned here are valuable assets students can take with them into the real world.

Once enrollees have achieved their goals within the frame­ work of the program, they move on, to other challenges. EcoYouth, in partnership with other local area agencies and businesses, helps enrollees move into jobs that continue the growth process. Enrollees may join a trade or enter an internship program with a local employer. Some decide to further their education. In any event, EcoYouth provides a unique opportunity for success.