July 29, 2016
JaKwan Tamper and Olivia Blakney, both upcoming seniors at Woodlawn High School, have spent the past two summers preparing for the rest of their lives.
As participants in YWCA Central Alabama’s CREW (Creating Responsible Educated Working teens) program, they’ve learned what it takes to be good employees, toured college campuses, practiced their interview skills and learned to budget money.
“What they’re teaching us here can last a lifetime,” Olivia said. “Most teens don’t get the experience that we do here, and I want to take advantage of it. It’s building me up to get ready for my future.”
Olivia and JaKwan were among 30 students from nine area high schools who completed the summer program, which allows them to gain valuable work experience and participate in personal and professional development activities. Generous sponsors, including PNC and Woodlawn Foundation, made the seven-week program possible.
Some of the teens served on work teams at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Jones Valley Teaching Farm and summer camps at Norwood Resource Center, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham and Grace Works at Grace Episcopal Church. Others worked at the Birmingham Public Library’s Central Branch and on landscaping and culinary teams at the YWCA’s Family Resource Center in Woodlawn.
In addition to learning from motivational speakers, the group visited colleges, Time, Inc., the Alabama Capitol and the Jefferson County Courthouse. The students also participated in the ropes course at Cherokee Bend Elementary School and the culinary team visited the Grand Bohemian Hotel, where they participated in a cooking class with Chef Chad Posey.
During their recent graduation celebration, Dr. Carlton Young, director of the pancreas transplant program and pediatric renal transplantation at UAB School of Medicine, told the students that it takes desire, dedication and determination to succeed.
“I was 8 when I told my mama I wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “I was an African-American child from Philadelphia who grew up in a row house. Who would have ever thought someone like me could end up where I am? You only get one good shot at life. The best gift you can give yourself and your parents is to study hard, expand your dreams and put in the work.”
JaKwan, who hopes to be a firefighter, said CREW helped him take those first steps toward success. “This experience has made me a better student, a better person, a better employee and a better co-worker,” he said. “It’s changed everything.”
To get involved with the YWCA or to support our programs, click here.