Since 2004, the Youth Apprenticeship Project has connected 110 youth to mentors, to one another, and to a larger movement of community building in their neighborhood. These connections are a foundation of support for young people to engage their curiosity and enact their power.
Teens who participate in the summer Youth Apprenticeship Project are paid through the City of Saint Paul Youth Job Corps to spend 15 hours a week in a neighborhood business or organization working with a committed mentor. While the young person does work for the organization, his or her position is transformed from just a job to an apprenticeship because of the committed support of the mentor and the opportunity for meaningful work. This is an exciting way to build capacity in neighborhood organizations and develop young people’s skills in a place-based context.
The Center for Democracy and Citizenship provides coordination of the Youth Apprenticeship Project and works with teen participants at weekly meetings to develop and reflect upon the skills they’re learning in their apprenticeships. Staff provide coaching to apprentices as they do additional work on projects related to relevant issues in the neighborhood, bringing their personal skills into a community context.
“He had such rich experience, we were essentially mentoring each other,” said Neil Cunningham of his 2006 greenhouse apprentice, Chang Xiong.
“I was at Baker Community Center, where I helped kids with lunches and recreational activities,” said 2008 apprentice Taijon Ferrell. “I learned how to manage my money, skills of working, and how to stay consistent and focused. I met a lot of kids – learning how to deal with them was important. I also learned to think about my future options.”