A LEAP forward for young people

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A new 12-week intensive work readiness program for DuPage County young people aged 17 – 21 is giving youth a chance in the workforce. Graduates of People’s Resource Center's Learn and Experience to Advance your Potential (LEAP) program are finding jobs.

People’s Resource Center LEAP participants

People’s Resource Center LEAP participants from L to R: Net Neang; Mike Martin; Armani Saddler; Egidija Stankunaite, a PRC volunteer; Will Sarnecki; Jon Cooney and in front, Kristen Thomas

LEAP is an amazing opportunity for young people to further their education, learn leadership skills, earn money and obtain skills that are transferable to other careers

A new program at People’s Resource Center (PRC) is changing the lives of struggling youth. The program is called LEAP - Learn and Experience to Advance your Potential. After the program’s first session, several young people who have participated in LEAP are having success when it comes to finding jobs.

Young people interested in the program are encouraged to apply at any time. A second session is currently underway, and a third session will begin in May.

LEAP is a 12-week work readiness program for DuPage County young people aged 17 – 21 who meet income guidelines from Illinois WorkNet and who have a significant employment barrier such as limited English, homelessness or are a teen parent or high school dropout.

The program is intensive. Participants meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for three months. They receive GED tutoring, if needed; job readiness skills; job placement; classes to obtain Microsoft Office Specialist certification; and leadership skill development.

In addition, participants can take advantage of money making incentives such as transportation assistance, attendance allowance, punctuality allowance and paid work experience.

This fall, People’s Resource Center hired Alicia Feistamel, MSW, to serve as Youth Work Readiness Case Manager.

“My main responsibility at PRC is to coordinate the LEAP program and work day-to-day with our LEAP participants,” Feistamel said. “LEAP is an amazing opportunity for young people to further their education, learn leadership skills, earn money and obtain skills that are transferable to other careers.”

Monikea Hatten joined the LEAP program, because it gave her work experience as well as the opportunity for advancement.

“I am moving forward using this program as a bridge to advance, both in my life and as a productive citizen of my community,” Hatten said. “I’m already using my new skills.” Hatten recently found work as an assistant in a law firm.

“Positive change is evident in the LEAP participants who started to rely on each other for support and guidance,” Feistamel said. “They are excited about the different job opportunities available to them after the program. The staff and volunteers at People’s Resource Center have the opportunity to provide support to youth who may feel lost. That’s the best part of my job.”

LEAP is supported by DuPage County/DuPage Workforce Development, to provide participants with work experience, classes, tutoring and mentoring.

Since 1975, People’s Resource Center has been bringing neighbors together to respond to hunger and poverty in DuPage County. With a team of over 1,000 volunteers, we offer nutritious food and other basic necessities like clothes and rent assistance for people facing tough times. And we connect people with resources—education and tutoring, jobs, technology, art, a caring community—to create a future of hope and opportunity for all.

For more information, call Alicia Feistamel at 630-384-1349, or go to: http://www.peoplesrc.org

MoniKea’s story

MoniKea Hatten is from Glen Ellyn, IL. She had always been driven but did not have much support or the means to accomplish many of her goals. She was laid off for almost three years before this point.

In 2010, MoniKea was an honor student at College of DuPage. She lost her financial aid after giving birth to her baby, because she was unable to finish a summer course. The baby was born July 12, and the last day of the course was July 27.

A year ago, she began working closely with WorkNet DuPage. She wanted to find a way to continue school, however many barriers stood in the way. She had no means of transportation, and soon after she became homeless. Childcare was out of the question.

Roseanne Deane at WorkNet recommended a program called LEAP at People’s Resource Center. MoniKea called and in her words: “My life has never been the same.”

“LEAP gave me provisions for transportation and incentives to help pay for childcare,” she said. “I didn’t have much money, and it was very difficult to travel 4 ½ hours every day using public transportation from a shelter in Villa Park, but I did it.”

PRC taught MoniKea how to network, and today she is working and continuing her education. She credits LEAP for both. Currently, she is looking for housing for her son and herself.

“Everything’s a stepping stone to my destiny,” MoniKea said. “PRC is my home, and the people at PRC are my family. Any young person seeking change should check out PRC. They push you forth into your life. Seriously, they will work with you until you are on your way.”

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Andy Richardson
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