By Zine Instructor Shaun
So, after they finish your program—then what?
It’s the most common question visitors to the Zine Project ask us and it’s one of the more mysterious.
One way Zine helps out its interns, is by informing and referring them to other more rigorous youth employment programs around Seattle. But the success of these referrals depends largely on the interns’ readiness to step up to the plate of real employment.
A youth we’ll call Braxton is one such ready intern. After completing the Zine Project, he climbed up the ladder, completing a more vigorous youth program and, after that, getting into an advanced adult employment program. Here’s his story:
In Zine, Braxton was an enjoyable anomaly. As is often the case with interns, Braxton hadn’t written seriously before getting hired by the Zine Project. He’d even had some struggles with the subject at school. Braxton also hadn’t worked in two years—another commonality among our young people.
But Zine works from people of all walks of life. Ziners don’t have to identify as “artistic” or even as writers. We have an array of techniques that can help people produce writing and, as a prevocational program, adopt an understanding posture towards youth who may not know what professionalism looks like. All youth have to have is a willingness.
Despite his lack of experience in the medium, Braxton came through. He completed work on his zine a week early. And not a moment too soon.
While I’d been working with him on his writing, Kevin, our Employment Specialist, was working with him to get into YouthCare’s Barista Program.
Braxton took applying for Barista lightly at first, whipping out a rough, smudgy application. Kevin, being a vigillant advocate, stopped Braxton and encouraged him to take some more time.
Barista is hard. Youth study for a two week period, and then have five weeks working in an actual café making sandwiches and coffee. But before this, they have to pass through Week 0—a week where the twelve youth that are hired compete for eight spots. To remain competitive, youth candidates have to show up on time and stay focused.
Braxton had been having some attendance issues in Zine. But Kevin and I had been coaching him on this—which meant holding him accountable with a write up and a firm talking to. If he was going to make it through Barista, this wouldn’t fly.
Braxton seemed to take our words to heart. He also responded to Kevin’s advising and together the two worked on creating a polished resume, cover letter and application to represent the wonderful individual Braxton is.
Not only did Braxton get into Barista, he made it through Week Zero and a few weeks later, graduated the program successfully.
A week after graduating, Braxton got into FareStart—an adult culinary training program. The program will equip him fully to work in a kitchen. From there, Braxton dreams of getting a job catering or opening his own taco truck. Look out El Camion!
Where youth will take the skills we give them depends on a few things. First off their employability, which in itself is a composite of their mental health and/or chemical dependency status, as well as their housing situation. The Zine Project meets youth who are struggling with these three factors in ways other jobs would not. We do this for the purpose of trying to get them stable while holding them accountable when they don’t show up or don’t communicate.
Luckily, Braxton, by the time he came to us, was housed and sober. Which helps things.
The second thing that youth success depends on is our ability to refer. Talented and informed Case Managers like Kevin are able to steer able-bodied youth on to various programs and counsel them through the hiring and employment process.
Thirdly, and most mysteriously—it takes an indefatigable will and tenacity of the individual to seize what employment opportunities there are.
In this case, Braxton was able to set his sights on what he wanted and go for.
We wish him the best of luck and are proud to be a part of his success.