Crew Program Gives Woodlawn Teens Work Experience and More

August 28, 2015

The school day starts as early as always, but the parents of some Woodlawn teenagers have noticed that getting their kids up and out the door in the morning isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

They credit the YWCA Central Alabama’s CREW (Creating Responsible Educated Working teens) program, which allows youth in the Woodlawn community the opportunity to gain work experience during the summer and participate in personal and professional development opportunities.

“I’ve noticed that she’s been much more responsible this year,” one mother said of her daughter, who participated in the eight-week program. “She is more respectful and I’m not having to remind her about every little thing. It was a good experience for her.”

For three days each week, the 25 teens served on work teams at Railroad Park, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, McWane Science Center and summer camps at United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham and Grace Works at Grace Episcopal Church. They also worked at UAB’s ArtPlay, Woodlawn Public Library and on landscaping and culinary teams at the YWCA’s Family Resource Center in Woodlawn.

Thursdays were enrichment days, and the students visited Samford University and Lawson State Community College, as well as Birmingham landmarks including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church. They learned about various job opportunities during a trip to Honda Manufacturing of Alabama and were inspired by guest speakers throughout the summer. They also participated in financial literacy workshops and mock job interviews.

“We wanted to give them the tools they need to be successful and show them opportunities that are available to them,” said DeShunn Wilkerson, coordinator of the Family Resource Center. “We hope they learned the value of hard work and gained some skills that will help them along their journey, not only through high school but beyond.”

The CREW members were honored during a recent graduation ceremony, and they shared how the program impacted their lives. “We have learned the value of hard work and endurance,” Terrell Hamilton said. “We learned great job skills and shared thoughts and ideas, and I got to discover and explore things about myself,” Destiny Bibbs added.

Brenda Durham, chief housing officer for the YWCA, told the students that they were among nearly 80 teenagers who applied for the 25 spots. “The fact that you were chosen to participate says a lot about you,” she said. “You are strong, tenacious and courageous. You are wonderful.”

The YWCA and the members of CREW are grateful for the support of generous sponsors, including PNC and Woodlawn Foundation, which helped make the program possible. “It’s been a blessing to have people out there who want more for us kids,” said participant Joshua Hill. “I have to say thank you all for having this program. Just to be here and learn so many things has been an honor.”

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